Representation Of Love And Death In Annabel Lee By Poe
This poem addresses the topic of a pure and wholesome love that persists despite death. The natural cycle of death plays its role in the poem by separating Poe from the beloved whom he is speaking about. The massive amount of popularity surrounding the poem can be attributed to the fact that Poe manages to convey love in its most authentic, natural, and beautiful form. It it’s simplest, “Annabel Lee” represents love. The speaker, a young man, conjures up an image of his one true and everlasting love. Once upon a time, he had lived in blissful happiness with his dear beloved, and he had loved her since they were children. Their love had been so passionate that even the angels above had become resentful, so they sent freezing winds and killed his darling Annabel Lee. Despite the pain and devastation felt by the speaker after the passing of his love, he does not ever stop loving her. Their souls are intertwined, and they will always be together, even if their physical bodies are separated. Each and every night when he sleeps he sees her face in his dreams. The most captivating element of this is the notion that true love resides deep in our soul, and that it can never die.
This plays into one of the much larger themes of the poem: love and death. The entirety of the poem concentrates on the extraordinary devotion the speaker holds for his love, regardless of the fact that she has become a victim to the natural cycle of life. In the eyes of the speaker, love is a relentless and unstoppable force of nature. It is the most exceptional thing that can exist in the entire universe, and there is no way to vanquish it, not even through death. Though his love has left the mortal world, the speaker feels her presence at every moment. His love is so powerful that it transcends time itself, even despite death. They both “loved with a love that was more than love” (line 9), but this perfect love was taken from them as “the wingèd seraphs of Heaven / Coveted her and me” (lines 11-12).
The love he held for his darling maiden was unstoppable, not even death could hinder his feelings. Without his beloved, he feels that there is no real reason to go on in life. The pain of her death has impacted even nature as we see, “And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes” (line 36). Their love was perfect and unstoppable, which made it inevitable that it would be brought to an end. In a way, we could interpret Poe’s words to mean that by writing about his Annabel Lee, she will truly never die, which means their love will not either. Their feelings may be long-lasting in the sense that he will carry love for her despite her death, even until he dies, but he is also saying that through writing of their love, he is immortalizing it. Nothing can ever stop their love, because once he is gone, people will continue to read about it. It exists on an eternal level because of his actions.
Poe wrote “Annabel Lee” in a very distinctive tone, as we can see that throughout the poem the tone shifts and grows exponentially from where it starts. In the beginning, it is very magical and mythical, creating a sense within the reader that everything is blissful and magnificent. However, beneath this cheerful and merry tone is a much darker and menacing tone that begins to create an eerie feeling. By mid-poem, the audience sees that this is by no means a fairy tale and that it is instead an ultimately depressing and bleak story that sadly highlights the beauty of love. Poe combines tone and rhythm to create a hypnotic effect on the reader, drawing them in and fully grasping their attention before even beginning to reveal the truth behind his rather dark content.
The structure of “Annabel Lee” mirrors that of a simple ballad, a narrative piece written with the intention of recitation or song. He creates a different rhyme scheme in each of the stanzas and utilizes repetition to emphasize certain aspects of the poem. His poem is effective in its structure as it stays lingering in his audience’s thoughts, building up importance and meaningfulness every time something is repeated. In the opening stanza, his first four lines are written in the very traditional ballad. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, as the opening line and the third line both have four feet, while the second line and fourth line each have three feet. Just as the tone conveys an idea of fairy tales, the structure also places an emphasis on a fairy tale ballad. The word choice and language is typical for a ballad beginning the poem with, “It was many and many a year ago,/ In a kingdom by the sea” (lines 1-2). His dialect mirrors that of a story that will tell about a princess in danger and the heroic prince that will come to save her.
Throughout the poem, Poe uses symbols to convey certain ideas and messages to his audience. In the line, “And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes” (line 36), we can interpret the speaker’s words to mean that without his love, nothing is beautiful. Even the most beautiful parts of nature he can no longer appreciate because she is gone. The symbolic light of the stars has left his life, and there is no way to get it back. He uses “the sea”, to symbolize the wickedness that has fallen into his life, in contrast with “the stars” to show how beautiful and pure his love once was. The sea is continuously mentioned throughout the poem, and it serves as the overarching image that completely ties each piece together. It is a colossal, freezing, isolated body of desolation and misery, which mirrors the feelings of the speaker due to the loss he faces. Later on, when Poe states, “Nor the demons down under the sea” (line 31), it is his first mention of the sea without relating it to the kingdom (the people). The imagery in this scene makes the sea that much more intense and terrifying, as demons fill the already vast and cold area in hopes of tearing him from his love. The audience can almost see them moving around beneath the surface of the water. Where demons are usually seen somewhere like hell, they are in this case casually existing in the sea, correlating the sea to a truly awful place like hell.
Just as the kingdom existed near the demon-ridden sea, Annabel now exists “In her tomb by the sounding sea” (line 40). This shows again that aside from an evil body of water, the sea represents the speaker’s feelings. His sadness and pain are mirrored through the descriptions and imagery provided about the sea, and each element of the poem is connected through this one component. His use of alliteration in these final line leaves the end of the poem feeling even more evil as “sepulchre”, “sea”, and “sounding sea” all create a hauntingly evil hissing sound, eloquently ending the rhythm which he built up. The use of “sea” as the final word in the poem is fitting, and well-thought-out as it leaves the audience with that same eerily evocative image of a desolate mass of water.
This poem has six stanzas, with three sextets, one octet, one septet, and an ending octet, accounting for forty-one total lines. In regards to rhyme, each stanza is different. However, the long e vowel links each of them together (i.e. the word “sea” is in every stanza, and the name “Annabel Lee” is in every stanza). This rhyme comes up over twenty times throughout the poem, as these two things are often repeated. The overall rhyme scheme of the poem is: ABABCB DBEBFB FBABJB EBBEBKB LMBMBNNBB. It is also interesting to notice that the opening rhyme of “ago” (line 1) is repeated during the third stanza, which transforms it into a sort of echo by the fourth stanza with the use of “know” (line 3). This happens again in the second and fifth stanzas with “love” and “above”. These subtle rhyme choices serve to emphasize the feelings that are evoked from the audience as they read the poem. The sadness of the speaker and the audience is first minimal, then strong, then eventually gone, as Annabel Lee has died and the poem has ended. As the repetition of certain words/phrases and the use of repeating certain rhymes creates a familiar feeling within the reader, Poe also utilizes the unrhymed endings in his stanzas in an equally poetic way. These unrhymed words (ex. “sepulchre” and “chilling”) drift through the poem without a connection to anything else, representing the concept of dealing with loss. Despite all the familiarity, there is isolation and loneliness.
One of the most enthralling elements of “Annabel Lee” is its evocative rhythm and lulling repetition. It is the sound and feeling encapsulated in the poem that ensnares the readers, much more so than the thematic content. As Poe’s story is set “in a kingdom by the sea” (line 2), he makes great efforts to evoke the feeling of the sea and capture its sounds. He subtly creates a very wavelike rhythm utilizing the three-foot lines and ending each shorter line of the poem with an “e” sound. The resounding of the “sea,” “Lee,” and “me” during the poem is eerily entrancing. Just as one would begin to tune out the background noise, vibrations, and melodies of waves, the reader progressively becomes less and less conscious of the monotonous sounds in the poem but remains sporadically reminded on a more subconscious level. Internal rhyme adds to the wavelike rhythm, as shown in the line, “For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams” (line 34), where “beams” and “dreams” play off one another. In the phrases “can never dissever” and “chilling and killing,” the rhyme places a higher emphasis on the stressed syllables, further creating an effect of consistent, soothing pulses.
The rhythm within the poem is very complicated, which makes it much more interesting to read. In certain stanzas, there are steady sets of anapests and iambs, but in others, there are startling amphibrachics and dactyls, with the occasional trochee. The pattern is as follows: “It was ma / ny and ma / ny a year / ago” (line 1). This opening line creates the rhythm for the whole poem and contains an iamb and three anapests, totaling with four feet. This means that it is an anapestic tetrameter. Pue made use of the anapest quite a bit throughout the poem to give the reader the feeling that they were almost stumbling through their words as they read through the poem. The following line of the poem would be divided as: “In a king / dom by / the sea,” (line 2) showing another anapest and two iambic feet, which means it is in iambic trimeter. Throughout the rest of the first stanza, the poem continues with this similar pattern. It is not until stanza four that the contrast in rhythm begins.
The pattern of the first part of the fourth stanza reads: “The an / gels, not half / so happy / in heaven,” (line 21) showing an iamb, an anapest, and two amphibrachs. The rhythm is very confusing, as it goes up and down in an odd way, reflecting the emotions of the line. A dactyl opens the line further down in stanza four with: “Yes! that / was the rea / son (as all / men know,” (line 23). This brings liveliness and significance back into the poem, interrupting the calm rhythm that has been established. It is however restored immediately after, as the following line is in iambic trimeter. The final line of stanza four opens with a trochee: “Chilling / and kill / ing my An / nabel Lee” (line 26), but it too is followed with the familiarity of iambs and anapests.