Annabel Lee as a Poem of Eternal Love
Edgar Allan Poe and His Poetry
The South American poet, critic and short story writer who kept aloof from the political debates and followed his own artistic preferences was Edger Allan Poe (1809-490). Poe is regarded in literary histories and handbooks as the architect of modern short story and a principle forerunner of the “art for art’s sake” movement in nineteenth-century European literature. His poetry greatly influenced the French symbolists of the late nineteenth century who in a way changed the direction of modern literature.
He influenced many succeeding authors and is regarded as an ancestor of literary moments like Symbolism and surrealism. It is this philosophical and artistic transaction that accounts for much of Poe’s importance in literary history. The stories of E.T.A. Hoffman and the Gothic novels of Anne Radcliffe have an influence on Poe. For Poe himself, poetry,which unfortunately for him was less lucrative than his stories, was a bit more important genre. To him, real poetry elevated the soul, freeing the reader temporarily from mundane concerns. Whereas early in his career poetry was supposed to achieve that goal through ‘indefiniteness ‘, later in 1846 he wrote” … the death, then of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetic topic in the world-and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover”. (Poe ‘’The Philosophy of Composition”165) Beauty and death always seems to fascinate Poe from the beginning its self leading to poems that deals with ruin and romantic decay.
Annabel Lee is the last composed complete poem by Edger Allen Poe, written in 1849. It is regarded as ballad, a narrative poem and as an elegy with the major theme of love. Interestingly, Poe like to call it a ballad. The poem explores the strong and unadulterated,’ ideal’ kind of love that existed between the poet and his beloved Annabel Lee. The poem has a foundation that revolves around the narrator and his beautiful Annabel Lee and it begins like a fairy tale that the story we are about to hear happened “many a years ago” by “the kingdom by the sea”. Sea and kingdom becomes recurring images in the poem that adds to the mood of the poem.
The Possible Prototypes
Poe was haunted by the death of many women in his life, including his young wife who passed away two years before him. Annabel lee is believed to be written at the premature death of his love and wife Virginia Eliza Clemm who he had married when she was only thirteen and he twenty seven. They lived together for eleven years but died of tuberculosis in 1847, leaving Poe distraught and with an emotional anchor. Critics suggest that his death in 1849, just two years after her departure may be the result of his depression and despondency on losing his lover. On the other hand there is an opinion among critics that Annabel Lee is none other that his beautiful mother herself who had a premature death.
The Painful Memory of the Long Lost Love
The poem is narrated by a young man, the poet himself as a child who falls madly in love with the “beautiful Annabel Lee”. Living in a kingdom by the sea they share their passion for each other. Their love is so intense that anyone who sees them will get jealous of them, even the angels in the heaven. Their love started from the childhood, and it was always so pure. He says, “I was a child and she was a child”, symbolizing the purity and innocence of their love.
Even though the love started in their childhood, the poet never wants to belittle his love as a teenage crush. He thinks his love above every other love and he says, “We loved with a love that was more than love”. The poem is about the beautiful, painful memory of his long lost love. Poe remembers the lovable moments they had spent together and the wound of her death that cannot heal. Their blissful marriage and the happy life could not stop many from feeling unhappy with their relationship. “The angels, not half so happy in heaven went envying her and me” ‘’that the wind come out of the cloud by chilling and killing my Annabel Lee”. He is angry for the seraphs of heaven who coveted him and Annabel Lee. May be true love was a bad thing and matter for envy to the angels in the heaven that a wind come down from the clouds, which made Annabel Lee sick and then eventually killed her.
The relatives of the high born kinsmen of Annabel Lee were not supportive for the marriage, that they bore her away from him after her death. The speaker blames the angels for taking his beautiful Annabel Lee away from him and the relatives who shut her up in a tomb. The poet is devastated by the death of his lover, but he does not give up their love. Even though deeply hurt he is sure that whoever try the souls of him and his beautiful Annabel Lee can never be separated. A little thing like death is not going to separate them, not even angels or devil could do that. The passionate lover still sees his beloved everywhere, in his dreams, stars, moon and all around because he loves her too much.
The real power lies in haunting romance, the thought of these two souls together and after all they have had to endure. The poem Annabel Lee remains as a true romantic poem, from the beginning to the end that it reflects the true love that is not changed by death. The poet inseparable from his soul mate goes and lies with her in tomb every night and that shows the irresistible nature of his love. The true romantic Edger Allen Poe is side by side with Annabel Lee, keeping the spiritual ties alive, transforming his love into universal but something beyond usual love.
Gothic Elements and Romantic Atmosphere
The setting of the poem have several Gothic elements and dark romanticism in Annabel Lee. The kingdom by the sea is lonely and in an undefined but mysterious location. The poet who does not describe setting with any specificity, weaves a hazy, romantic atmosphere around the kingdom until he ends by offering a stark and horrific image of a “sepulcher there by the sea”, which is conceptually connected to death and decay. At the same time, the nostalgic tone and the Gothic background inculcate the image of a love that outlasts all its oppositions from the spiritual jealousy of the seraphs to the physical barrier of death. Although Annabel Lee is physically dead, she is spiritually alive through his love, she lives in his heart that no one can never resist. The narrator sees her “bright eyes “an image of her soul and a spark of life that gives a promise of a future meeting between them. The poem is above the mere adoration or bizarre attachment, but an ideal Platonic kind of loves where the souls of lovers win over their bodies. He presents opposite concepts and forces like angels and demons, love and envy, life and death, but all contributing ultimately to showcase the straightforward love that is beyond the usual love. The setting, rhyme scheme, repetition etc adds to the mood of the poem, making the poem a memo of the deeper emotions of the passionate love that remains forever ever and ever.
- Bertens, Hans and Theo D’haen. American Literature A History. Routledge, Oxon. 2014. Print
- Botting, Fred. Gothic, Routledge,1996,Oxon
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