Annabel Lee is the latest poem by Edgar Allan Poe, which elaborates on the death of a young woman. There is no consensus in research and art literature on who is the protagonist of Annabelle Lee’s poem. The subject of the death of a beautiful woman is often touched upon in the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, which may have grounds in the tragic episodes of his biography. Some literary critics believe that the source of inspiration for this poem is the writer’s wife, Virginia Clemm, who died early from tuberculosis (Bloom, p. 73). This paper argues that the imagery of Annabel Lee describes the eternity of love and its independence from death and higher powers.
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Images of Love
The narrator describes the beauty and perfection of his love through specific images. The poem states that the main heroine had “no other thought Than to love and be loved” (Poe, p. 789). The fact that she did not think of anything else demonstrates the overwhelming nature of this love. The narrator claims that they were both children, which emphasizes the innocence of their love and its unrelatedness to the world vices (Bloom, p. 74). Edgar Allan Poe also uses external images to describe such a deep experience. The story takes place in “a kingdom by the sea” in an undefined abstract period of time, which creates “a romantic, legendary quality for the narrative setting” (“Overview: ‘Annabel Lee’”, p. 1). The narrator notes that “winged seraphs of Heaven coveted” lovers (Poe, p. 789). The paradise creatures can only patronize truly pure and sincere love.
Symbols of Obstacles and Death
Death in this situation is the most fundamental obstacle to love, and images associated with death and obstacles are trying to separate lovers. The poem states twice that “a wind blew out of a cloud,” and this line twice precedes the announcement of Annabel Lee’s death (Poe, p. 789). Thus, the wind is a symbol of tragic circumstances that take the life of a beautiful maiden. The “highborn kinsmen” take the young woman away from the narrator and “shut her up in a sepulcher,” which Bloom calls an “unjust internment” (Bloom, p. 75). These characters and thesepulchere are not the causes of death, but they emphasize its tragic nature. The main reason for death is the envy of “angels, not half so happy in Heaven,” who are the supreme beings and to whom humans usually cannot resist (Poe, p. 789). The power and greatness of these creatures emphasize the seriousness of the obstacles to love and its perfection.
Eternity and Immortality of Love
There are images in the poem that express constancy and eternity. The “kingdom by the sea,” which created a romantic atmosphere, appears throughout the poem, creating a permanent, changeless setting (Poe, p. 789). The narrator claims that neither “angels in Heaven” nor “demons down under the sea Can ever dissever” his “soul from the soul” of a maiden (Poe, p. 789). Angels and demons thus act as the most critical obstacles, and the soul symbolizes the eternity and immortality of the love of the two characters. The narrator confirms that his love for Annabelle Lee is eternal (“Overview: ‘Annabel Lee’”, p. 3). He points out that the moon brings him dreams of Annabelle Lee, and the stars remind him of her bright eyes.
In this way, Edgar Allan Poe creates a monument to immortality and the eternity of love that may not depend on even such a fundamental obstacle as death. Despite the fact that Annabelle Lee died, the poem ends on an encouraging note. The narrator feels Annabelle Lee’s presence in his mind, which means his feeling of love is still with him, and death cannot take it away.
- Bloom, Harold. Edgar Allan Poe: Comprehensive Research and Study Guide. Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.
- “Overview: ‘Annabel Lee’.” Poetry for Students, edited by Ira Mark Milne, vol. 9, Gale, 2000. Literature Resource Center.
- Poe, Edgar Allan. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Knickerbocker Classics, 2014.