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annabel lee analysis

"Annabel Lee" is the last complete poem [1] composed by American author Edgar Allan Poe.
Like many of Poe's poems, it explores the theme of the death of a beautiful woman. [2] The
narrator, who fell in love with Annabel Lee when they were young, has a love for her so
strong that even angels are jealous. He retains his love for her even after her death. There
has been debate over whom, if anyone, was the inspiration for "Annabel Lee". Though many
women have been suggested, Poe's wife Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe is one of the more
credible candidates. Written in 1849, it was not published until shortly after Poe's death that
same year.
The poem's narrator describes his love for Annabel Lee, which began many years ago in a
so-called "kingdom by the sea". Though they were young, their love for one another burned
with such an intensity that angels became jealous. It is for that reason that the narrator
believes the seraphim caused her death. Even so, their love is strong enough that it extends
beyond the grave and the narrator believes their two souls are still entwined. Every night, he
dreams of Annabel Lee and sees the brightness of her eyes in the stars. He admits that
every night he lies down by her side in her tomb by the sea.
[edit] Analysis
Like many other Poe poems including "The Raven", "Ulalume", and "To One in Paradise",
"Annabel Lee" follows Poe's favorite theme: the death of a beautiful woman, [2] which Poe
called "the most poetical topic in the world". [3] Also like women in many other works by Poe,
she is struck with illness and marries young. [4] The poem focuses on an ideal love which is
unusually strong. In fact, the narrator's actions show that he not only loves Annabel Lee, but
he worships her, something he can only do after her death. [5] The narrator admits that he
and Annabel Lee were both children when they fell in love, but his explanation that angels
murdered her is in itself childish, suggesting he has not grown up much since then. [6] His
repetition of this assertion suggests he is trying to rationalize his own excessive feelings of
Unlike "The Raven", in which the narrator believes he will "nevermore" be reunited with his
love, "Annabel Lee" says the two will be together again, as not even demons "can ever
dissever" their souls.
The poem has been described containing "shades of necrophilia."[7]
[edit] Poetic structure
"Annabel Lee" consists of six stanzas, three with six lines, one with seven, and two with
eight, with the rhyme pattern differing slightly in each one. [2] Though it is not technically a
ballad, Poe referred to it as one. [8] Like a ballad, the poem utilizes repetition of words and
phrases purposely to create its mournful effect. [2] The name Annabel Lee emphasizes the
letter "L", a frequent device in Poe's female characters such as "Eulalie", "Lenore", and
There is debate on the last line of the poem. The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore,
Maryland has identified 11 different versions of the poem that were published between 1849
and 1850.[10] However, the biggest variation is in the final line:
Original manuscript – In her tomb by the side of the sea
Alternative version – In her tomb by the sounding sea
[edit] Inspiration
Poe's wife Virginia is often assumed to be the inspiration for "Annabel Lee".
It is unclear to whom the eponymous character Annabel Lee is referring.[11] Biographers and
critics often suggest Poe's frequent use of the "death of a beautiful woman" theme stems
from the repeated loss of women throughout his own life, including his mother Eliza Poe and
his foster mother Frances Allan. [12] Biographers often interpret that "Annabel Lee" was
written for Poe's wife Virginia, who had died two years prior, as was suggested by poet
Frances Sargent Osgood, though Osgood is herself a candidate for the poem's inspiration. [11]
A strong case can be made for Poe's wife Virginia: she was the one he loved as a child, and
the only one that had been his bride, and the only one that had died. [13] Autobiographical
readings of the poem have also been used to support the theory that Virginia and Poe never
consummated their marriage, as "Annabel Lee" was a "maiden".[14] Critics, including T.O.
Mabbott, believed that Annabel Lee was merely the product of Poe's gloomy imagination and
that Annabel Lee was no real person in particular. A childhood sweetheart of Poe's named
Sarah Elmira Royster believed the poem was written with her in mind [15] and that Poe himself
said so.[16] Sarah Helen Whitman and Sarah Anna Lewis also claimed to have inspired the
Local legend in Charleston, South Carolina tells the story of a sailor who met a woman
named Annabel Lee. Her father disapproved of the pairing and the two met privately in a
graveyard before the sailor's time stationed in Charleston was up. While away, he heard of
Annabel's death from yellow fever, but her father would not allow him at the funeral.
Because he did not know her exact burial location, he instead kept vigil in the cemetery
where they had often secretly met. There is no evidence that Edgar Allan Poe had heard of
this legend, but locals insist it was his inspiration, especially considering Poe was briefly
stationed in Charleston while in the army in 1827. [18]
[edit] Publication history and reception
1849 fair copy by Edgar Allan Poe, Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
"Annabel Lee" was likely composed in May 1849. [17] Poe took steps to ensure the poem
would be seen in print. He gave a copy to Rufus Wilmot Griswold, his literary executor and
personal rival, gave another copy to John Thompson to repay a $5 debt, and sold a copy to
Sartain's Union Magazine for publication.[13] Though Sartain's was the first authorized printing
in January 1850, Griswold was the first to publish it on October 9, 1849, two days after Poe's
death as part of his obituary of Poe in the New York Daily Tribune. Thompson had it
published in the Southern Literary Messenger in November 1849.[13]
"Annabel Lee" was an inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov, especially for his novel Lolita (1955),
in which the narrator, as a child, falls in love with the terminally ill Annabel Leigh "in a
princedom by the sea". Originally, Nabokov titled the novel The Kingdom by the Sea.[19]
Nabokov would later use this as the title of the Lolita "doppelganger novel" in Look at the
Poe's "Annabel Lee"
An Analysis of the Role of Language and Imagery
Aug 28, 2008
Jennifer M. Willhite
E.A. Poe - http://www.horrorstew.com/images/poe002.jpg
Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most celebrated American authors of the 19th century. His
most memorable works were published shortly before his death in 1849.
One of Poe's most indelible works is the poem Annabel Lee, which was written shortly before his
death. In its entirety, this poem encompasses several aspects that set it apart from some of his
other works.
Language and Imagery
The language and imagery used in Annabel Lee gives the poem a kind of strength, and emotion,
that could not be accomplished though prose alone. Other elements, common to poetry,
contribute to this poem's uniqueness and contrariety from prose.
Annabel Lee is a work that expresses great loss and sadness. The speaker laments that he has
lost the one true love of his life. The loneliness and sadness that permeate the lines of the poem
result in an obsession of sorts over the love that the two shared. Every thought and all the
dreams he has -- everything has to do with this love that was lost.
In modern day thought, such an obsession that results in the speaker going to the grave to lay
by her side could be viewed as a form of necrophilism, or morbidity. In the traditional vein of
gothic/romantic fiction, or poetry, such behavior is considered to be a sign of ardor to one's true
Element of Rhythm
One aspect that makes this poem unique, from prose, is the element of rhythm. The rhythm of
Annabel Lee is fairly fast paced. In the opening lines, the language flows in such a way that the
rhythm is established with the syntax alone. The rhythm is maintained throughout the poem by
the repetition of the name Annabel Lee.
Granted language is universal, it is the way that this poem is written, which demonstrates that
the depth of what is being expressed could very easily go unnoticed if written in prose. The
words that Poe uses to express the feelings of the speaker are emotional and penetrating. The
imagery expressed is very powerful.
Emotional Words
The speaker wants what he is feeling to be known, if not felt, by those who read his words. On
the surface, this poem may appear to be more of a depressed and obsessive expression of
emotion. But the underlying themes, and thoughts, rest in the way the lines, and the words
themselves, are put together.
Strong words such as kingdom, sepulchre, and heaven demonstrate the depth, which the
speaker seeks to convey. Usually, such words are thought of in an ethereal context, which would
embody more than mortal, or earthly, understanding. This ethereal reference may have been
deliberate, on the part of Poe, to show the spiritual impact that was experienced by the speaker.
Element of Rhyme
As with almost all poems, rhyme is another important aspect that differentiates poetry from
prose. Throughout this poem, the name "Annabel Lee" is an important part of the rhyme scheme.
With every stanza, Annabel Lee is mentioned more than once. Reiteration such as this could be
for the sake of rhyme, as well as to emphasize the importance of her name, which is associated
with the speaker's tremendous feelings of solitude.
Traditionally, most poems are
stanza being composed of six
the reason for the alternation
instance where the lines vary,
stanzaic. The poem of Annabel Lee is written in six stanzas, each
to eight lines. The lines of each stanza seem to alternate. Part of
of lines may be due to the aspect of rhyming and rhythm. In the
the flow of the poem would be disrupted if it were changed in any
Ethereal vs. Mortal
Although imagery can be found in all forms of literature, the imagery that is contained in this
poem could not easily be reproduced in prose. The connections that Poe makes between the
ethereal and the mortal are dynamic and lucid. The phrasing expresses the final fate of Annabel
as very daunting.
The idea of being “shut up” in a sepulchre is ominous and, in a sense, morbid. The reader can
get the sense that the speaker feels that his beloved should not be “shut up” in a vault, but able
to roam free. The speaker may feel that his beloved’s spirit cannot survive if it is contained in
such a cold and dense place.
Another possibility for such dark imagery could be explained by reasoning. There is no doubt that
the speaker is very distraught over his loss, and a way for him to express his resentment would
be to use strong words and imagery when relating what took place. Such reasoning could very
well explain not only the strong words and imagery, but also the connection and interplay of the
ethereal aspect.
Mystique of Poe's Verse
Poe relates a very emotional and dark tale to his audience through the use of stanzas and verse.
By comparison, the overall effect that this work has had on many generations of readers may
have been altered, in some way, had Poe chosen to write this tale in prose.
All these components add to the mystique and power of Poe’s tale of Annabel Lee. These various
aspects show the variance from prose this work demonstrates, and the importance of such
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1983.
Read more at Suite101: Poe's "Annabel Lee": An Analysis of the Role of Language and
Annabel Lee Summary
"Annabel Lee" is about a beautiful, painful memory. The speaker of the poem is remembering his
long-lost love, Annabel Lee. The speaker knew Annabel Lee many years ago, when she was a
girl, and they both lived "in a kingdom by the sea." Even though they were only children, these
two were really, seriously in love. So in love that even the angels in heaven noticed and were
jealous. Maybe that was a bad thing, because our speaker blames the angels for killing his
girlfriend. Apparently a wind came down from the clouds, which made Annabel Lee sick and then
eventually killed her. When this happened, her relatives came and took her away from the
Our speaker wants us to know that his love for Annabel Lee wasn't just a teenage crush. A little
thing like death isn't going to separate him from Annabel Lee. Not even angels or devils could do
that. He still sees her everywhere, in his dreams and in the stars. In fact he still loves her so much
(here's where it gets really weird) that he goes and lies down with her in her tomb every night.
Stanza 1 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Lines 1-6
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
This poem begins exactly like a fairy tale, telling us that the story we are about to hear
happened "many a year ago" in a "kingdom by the sea."
These little details are important, because the sea and this old kingdom will be big images
in the poem.
Even more important though, is Annabel Lee. She's the title character, and she's the
reason the poem exists.
The speaker introduces her in the third line by calling her a "maiden," which lets us know
that she is young (and probably attractive), but which also keeps up the fairy-tale feel of
the first few lines.
(You might think of her as being a little like a Disney princess, although as you'll see, this
poem is way too dark to be a Disney movie.)
Finally, the speaker tells us the key fact of this poem, which is that he and Annabel Lee
were in love. So much in love that it was the only thing that mattered to either of them.
Stanza 2 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Lines 7-12
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love-I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
In this stanza the speaker lets us know that both he and Annabel Lee were young when
this happened. Not teenagers even, but kids: "I was a child and she was a child."
This lets us know just how rare and special their love was, but it also tips us off that
maybe there's something not quite right here.
He also repeats the line: "in the kingdom by the sea." This reminds us where we are, but
also creates the hypnotic, repeating effect that Poe loves.
It's the same trick he uses in the next line, when he tells us that he and Annabel "loved
with a love that was more than love." He wants to let us know that their love was special
and intense, even though they were so young.
So, the speaker uses the word love three times in the same line, which is a pretty gutsy
move for a poet.
This love was apparently so amazingly strong that the "seraphs" (that's just a fancy word
for "angels") in heaven noticed them.
In fact, these angels apparently "coveted" the two young lovers. That's a kind of tricky
word, but an important one for this poem. To covet means to want something really badly,
usually something that doesn't belong to you. This is a strange feeling for angels to have,
since it's definitely not a holy emotion. It's also our first hint that things might not turn out
so well for these two kids.
Stanza 3 Summary
Lines 13-16
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
Here's where things really take a turn for the worse. The speaker blames the terrible turn
of events on the angels who coveted him and Annabel.
The jealousy of the angels was the reason why a wind came down from a cloud and killed
his girlfriend.
Actually the speaker doesn't tell us right away that she dies, just that the wind was
"chilling" to her. That's a great word to use because it makes us think of the way you get
sick in bad weather (like how people say you "catch cold").
At the same time, it gives us a first creepy hint of Annabel's cold, chilled dead body, which
is a major theme for this poem.
Lines 17-20
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
Then, still without saying that she was dead, the speaker tells us how her "kinsman" (that
just means a member of her family) came and took her away from him.
Be sure to notice the word he uses to describe this kinsman. He calls him "highborn"
which means aristocratic, noble. If the speaker himself were "highborn" he probably
wouldn't think to mention this. Since he does, it gives us a little hint of a conflict here,
maybe a little bit of a Romeo and Juliet-style family feud.
Maybe even before she died there were problems in his relationship with Annabel Lee.
That's just a small example of how Poe can work neat details into what seems like a
simple story.
Whatever is going on with the family, you can feel the speaker's pain at losing Annabel,
and you can tell that he feels she is being stolen from him.
He tells us how the family "bore" (that just means "carried") her away from him.
Death and Annabel's family are trying to tear these two lovers apart, to "shut her up" in a
"sepulchre." (That's another word for a big fancy building that you bury someone in, a
tomb like you might see in an old cemetery. It's also a perfect Poe word – you can always
count on him to go for a spooky, fancy word when he can.)
Stanza 4 Summary
Lines 21-26
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-Yes!--that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
The speaker circles back a little bit, and directly blames the angels for killing his girlfriend.
He says that he and Annabel were happier on earth than the angels were in heaven, and
that made them jealous.
He repeats what he said in line 13, insisting that "that was the reason" why the wind came
down and killed Annabel Lee.
The speaker is extra careful to point out that this isn't just his wacky theory, but in fact that
everyone ("all men") who live in the kingdom know that this is a fact.
We don't get any new facts in this stanza, and the story itself doesn't move forward. At the
same time, maybe we learn something about the speaker's mental state.
The fact that he circles back and repeats the story of Annabel's death might show us see
how traumatic it was for him.
He can't seem to stop thinking about that moment. Also, we think this theory about angels
killing Annabel because they are jealous sounds a little off the wall. Check out line 23,
when he says "Yes!--that was the reason."
He sounds a little like a mad-scientist hatching a nutty idea. This will be important later,
when things get even more bizarre.
Finally, notice how, even when Poe seems to be repeating himself, he's adding little
changes and bits of new information. In line 17, the speaker directly mentions Annabel's
death for the first time, when he talks about the wind "killing" her. Again, even when the
story is simple, it's a good idea to watch every word Poe uses.
Stanza 5 Summary
Lines 27-33
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-Of many far wiser than we-And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:
Even if death might seem to be the end of love, our speaker tells us that isn't the case for
him and Annabel. Even though they were young, that didn't stop them from loving
completely, and from knowing what they wanted.
He goes on to say that neither the angels in heaven or the demons who live under the
water can stop their love. Nothing in heaven or hell can "dissever" (that means cut or
separate) his soul and Annabel's soul.
The bottom line is that their love is eternal, and that nothing and no one can tear them
Stanza 6 Summary
Lines 34-37
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
Here's the proof that their love between the speaker and Annabel Lee isn't dead (at least
in the mind of the speaker).
Notice that this stanza starts with a shift from the past tense into the present tense. He
was telling a story about something that happened long ago, but now he's letting us know
what's happening right now.
The descriptions of his current life sound a bit creepy.
Whenever the moon shines, he dreams of Annabel Lee. Whenever the stars come out, he
feels Annabel's eyes on him. This imagery is shared by many of Poe's poems and stories.
His main characters are often haunted by dreams and visions of women that they loved.
Most of the time, those women are dead but not gone.
Just notice how weird and intense these images are. He doesn't say: "When I see the
stars, I think of her." He says that when the stars come out "I feel the bright eyes" of
Annabel Lee. It's almost like her eyes are there, and are burning into him. We are building
up to something strange towards the end of the poem.
Annabel Lee Symbolism, Imagery & Wordplay
The Kingdom
Symbol Analysis
This is the first major image we come across in the poem. Poe uses it a bunch of times, always
as a part of the phrase "a kingdom by the sea." In poetry we call that repeated phrase a refrain.
You can think of it like a chorus in a song. The verses tell a story, but the chorus comes back to
the main images again and again. Rhythm is a big part of poetry, and this refrain helps give this
poem its rhythm.
Line 2: We see the phrase "a kingdom by the sea" over and over. Thinking about what
this phrase means will help to set the tone for the entire poem. We think it gives the whole
thing a kind of fairytale feel. When it comes to Poe's writing, we can't always be sure
exactly where we are. He uses this word four more times in the poem, but we never get
any specifics about the kingdom. A lot is left to our imagination. It seems like it's there to
give us an intense image of a time and place a long way from our own.
Line 20: In this line the wording is the same as in line 2, but now the word kingdom comes
right after the story about the "highborn kinsman." So now the kingdom might call up
images of powerful, rich people who can just take things without asking. In that case, the
kingdom becomes a symbol of tyranny and cruelty. It's part of what makes the world such
a bad place to live for our poor speaker.
The Sea
Symbol Analysis
If we were going to have a contest for biggest, fattest symbol in this whole poem, we'd probably
bet on the sea. It comes up again and again in the poem, and it's the image that ties everything
together. We think of the ocean in this poem as being huge and lonely and cold. It's a nice
reflection of the emptiness and desolation that the speaker feels now that he has lost Annabel.
Line 2: This is the first time we hear about the sea, and it's part of that "kingdom by the
sea" refrain. If the kingdom becomes a symbol of the power of people, then the sea is all
about the power of nature. It's kind of neat how Poe can tie humans and the natural world
together in one phrase like that.
Line 31: Poe switches it up a little here, and mentions the sea for the first time without
mentioning the kingdom too. In this line the sea is filled with demons that want to tear him
and Annabel apart. You can see how this makes the image of the sea more intense.
Before we just knew that it was by the kingdom, but now we can imagine it full of demons.
We can almost see them slithering along under the water. If we imagine hell or any place
where demons live, we usually imagine it being underground. In this poem, though, the
evil things live under the sea. This makes the idea of the sea a dark and scary thing in
"Annabel Lee."
Line 40: Annabel's tomb is apparently right beside the water too. See how the sea pulls
everything together in this poem? We can almost imagine the water lapping up against it.
Like we said, we're pretty convinced that this is a creepy, evil, deadly ocean we're dealing
with here. Also, notice the way Poe repeats the s sound and the beginning of "sepulchre"
and "sea." That alliteration gives the end of the poem a sort of hissing, evil sound, and is
also another way that Poe builds its rhythm.
Line 41: It's important that "sea" is the last word in this poem. It rounds the whole thing
out, and leaves us with the familiar haunting image of the open lonely ocean. The phrase
"sounding sea" is cool too. There's that alliteration again, but there's also the fact that it's
kind of tough to figure out what it means. The word "sounding" gives us an open, echoey
feeling that fits with the mood at the end of the poem, but it's also a bit mysterious.
Annabel Lee
Symbol Analysis
She's the one. She's the reason for the poem and she's clearly the only thing our speaker can
think about. She was young and beautiful and one half of the perfect couple. But even though
Poe tells us all that, we don't learn very much about Annabel. She doesn't talk, we don't hear
what color her hair was, or how tall she was or anything like that. If you have a picture in your
head of Annabel Lee, it's because you made it up. No detail is given here. Because of that, we
think she's meant to be a symbol of impossible, pure beauty and love. In fact, she seems a little
too good to be true.
Line 4: Here's our first introduction to Annabel. There are a couple of things worth noticing
about the way she pops up here. First, we learn that she's a "maiden," which fits really
well with all this business about the kingdom. Second, he says that she's a maiden
"whom you may know." That pulls us in and almost makes her seem famous and a little
bit unreal. Again, she seems more like a fantasy or a fairy-tale character than a real girl.
Lastly, he says that she has "no other thought" than loving him. That would be sort sad if it
was true, but we suspect that the speaker is fooling himself with this poetic exaggeration
(or hyperbole).
Line 26: At the beginning of the poem, the memories of Annabel are all sweetness and
beauty. Then, things begin to change, and the memory of her death creeps in. The image
in this line is particularly strong. When he talks about the wind "chilling" Annabel, we can
almost feel the coldness of her body as life slips away. Then the speaker rhymes that
word with "killing," which is the harshest mention of death in the entire poem.
Line 33: The last three times he mentions Annabel, it's in this repeated line: "Of the
beautiful Annabel Lee." It's another refrain, in a poem that's full of them. In these sad last
lines, her name becomes almost like an echo, as the speaker builds up into his last cry of
despair in line 39. Her name finally becomes like the words of a spell that he's saying
over and over again to try to bring her back.
The Highborn Kinsman
Symbol Analysis
We get the feeling that our speaker thinks this guy is a not a good guy. He shows up for a line,
takes Annabel away, and shuts her in a tomb. Then again, he's burying his dead relative, which is
really what you're supposed to do, so we think it's maybe a little unfair to blame him.
Line 17: Even though we don't know exactly who he is (father? brother?), this kinsman is
the main symbol of the interference of older people in the speaker's life. The speaker
seems convinced that other people don't understand him and Annabel, and he's pretty
annoyed that they would try to take her away, even though she is dead.
The Sepulchre
Symbol Analysis
There's only one spot where the speaker can bring himself to say straight out that Annabel is
dead (that's in line 26: "killing my Annabel Lee"). For the rest of the poem, this "sepulchre" is his
way of talking about death. It stands in for all of the horror of death, and gives the speaker a way
to talk about losing her without explicitly saying it. (It's also an extra cool-sounding word as far as
we're concerned. It has a great spooky, Halloween feel to it, doesn't it? It would also be a great
name for a metal band.)
Line 19: If the kinsman represents the society that tries to keep these lovers apart, the
sepulchre is a symbol for the cold reality of death. Notice how Annabel gets "shut up" in
this tomb. It's a harsh phrase that makes it sound more like a prison than a final resting
Line 40: At the end we are left with only the sea and the sepulchre. With their similar
sounds, the words seem almost married to each other, a pair like Annabel and the
speaker. Notice that the kingdom and the sea are a pair at the beginning but now the
sepulchre has taken over, and death has replaced life.
The Angels/Seraphs
Symbol Analysis
Interestingly enough, these are the bad guys in this poem. They take the blame for killing
Annabel. It's not a standard view of angels, but our speaker has a dark outlook on everything, so
we're not too surprised. Like with the sepulchre, we can see Poe playing around with a fancy "s"
word here too, just to spice things up, and then falling back on a much more common synonym.
He could have just said angels right away, but he's Edgar Allan Poe, and for him, atmosphere is
Line 11: There's that fancy phrase: "winged seraphs." That choice of words helps to lend
a lofty, mythological flavor to the poem, just like the kingdom and the maiden. Right from
the start, these seraphs are cruel and jealous. They covet the young lovers. Angels are
supposed to represent beauty and light and joy. Here they are dark and unjust and evil.
It's a whacky, upside-down world in this poem.
Line 21: More mean angels here, jealous of Annabel and her boyfriend. Poe circles back
to the same few themes a number of times, which may be a way of giving us insight into
the unstable mind of the speaker. It also allows him to set up that hypnotic rhythm, like he
does with the alliteration of "half so happy in heaven."
Line 30: Now he hits back at the angels a little. They thought they would win by killing
Annabel, but his bond with her is too strong. Notice the way they are paired with the
demons under the sea in the next line. This might look like an allusion to a particular
religious view of the world. However, since both the angels and the demons are ganging
up against Annabel and the speaker, they aren't really representatives of good and evil at
The Moon and Stars
Symbol Analysis
If there's any part of the natural world in this poem that feels like it might be sort of positive and
friendly, this is probably it. While the wind chills and kills and the ocean is full of demons, at least
the moon and stars bring memories of Annabel Lee. At the same time, it's clear that memories of
the moon and stars aren't very happy ones for our speaker.
Line 34: Here the moon, with the way it "beams" and "brings him dreams" feels almost
like a character. Poe's flirting with personification here, but the moon slips away quickly.
Finally, it's Annabel who matters, always and forever.
Line 36: Here it almost seems like Annabel is there again. We can't quite tell if the stars
are meant to be a metaphor for her eyes or if our speaker might think that he sees her
eyes in the sky. The vision is a little bit beautiful and sad, and also a little bit scary.
Annabel Lee: Rhyme, Form & Meter
We’ll show you the poem’s blueprints, and we’ll listen for the music behind the words.
Rhythm and Rhyme Grab Bag
Poe uses a variety of different poetic techniques in this poem. We'll get specific about some of
them, and talk about some of the ways he gets weird and fancy. But lets start by breaking it down
into the basic categories. That way we can see how he sets up patterns and then messes with
them. The first thing to notice is the poem is broken into different sections. These groups of lines
are called stanzas. The first one ends with line 6. There are a total of six stanzas in this poem.
The other important thing to notice right off the bat is that in almost every case, the poem is made
up pairs of long and short lines. First you get a long line, then a short line, and so on. The lines
aren't always the same length, but they tend to go long/short/long/short, etc. But then, in a few
spots, Poe switches it up. Look at lines 28 and 29, for example – two "shorts" in a row. You don't
have to catch every one of these tricks to enjoy the poem and understand it, but it's good to have
your eye open for patterns, and then to look for the ways that they change.
Another big tool is rhyme, and that's another place where Poe sets up a basic pattern and then
plays with it a fair amount. The long lines sometimes rhyme, and sometimes don't, but the short
lines always end in the same sound. Here's a quick example from the first stanza (we'll use letters
to represent the rhymes):
It was many and many a year ago, A
In a kingdom by the sea, B
That a maiden there lived whom you may know A
By the name of Annabel Lee; B
And this maiden she lived with no other thought C
Than to love and be loved by me. B
See how that works? Sometimes the ends of the long lines don't rhyme with anything else in the
poem (like "thought" at the end of line 5). On the other hand, the short lines always end in an ee
sound. In fact, Poe only uses four words to end the short lines: "sea," "Lee," "we" and "me."
Finally, let's take a look at the meter. This is where Poe gets fancy – you could probably teach a
whole English class on this poem. We won't drag you through every line, but it's worth a peek,
because Poe was interested in how poems fit together, and the effect that meter could have on a
reader. We'll show you two of the gadgets in his poetic toolbox. In the first lines, he mixes what's
called an anapest (which is two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable) with what's
called an iamb (which is the meter you hear most commonly in poetry, an unstressed syllable
followed by a stress). Don't worry, we'll show you how it works. Let's start with that first line:
The first three groups have three syllables each, and each one ends with a stressed beat (shown
in bold). Those are the anapests. The last group (or foot) only has two syllables – that's your
That's an anapest followed by two iambs. We'll resist the urge to dissect every line, but let's look
at one more spot. The last stanza (lines 34-41) is made up almost completely of anapests. If you
want to impress someone you could tell them that it alternates between anapestic tetrameter (four
anapests per line) and anapestic trimeter (3 per line). The main thing to remember is the rhythm,
which goes: da da DUM, da da DUM, da da DUM. Let's try it out one last time, with just the first
Voila, now you're a master of anapests. What good is that, you ask? Well, we think having a
name for this meter and being able to see it helps us to understand all the careful work that Poe
did to make "Annabel Lee" sound the way it does. That should make the experience of reading it
more textured and alive.
Speaker Point of View
Who is the speaker, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her
or him?
We imagine our speaker being the kind of guy you'd meet at a party and be interested in right
away. He'd be charming, engaging, and maybe he'd tell some good stories. Then, as you went
on, you'd start to realize that something wasn't quite right. Maybe he'd keep coming back to one
particular subject. Maybe he'd rant about something bad that happened to him. Maybe there
would just be a little gleam in his eye that made you a bit uncomfortable. You'd try to slip away,
but you'd find yourself fascinated by him, and unable to leave. He would draw you in until you felt
sorry for him, until you almost felt like you had lived his sad life. The speaker of this poem, if he
was talking to you, would have an edge in his voice that would make him impossible to ignore.
Annabel Lee Setting
Where It All Goes Down
The Creepiest Kingdom Ever
We get a real fantasy movie vibe from this poem. That kingdom by the sea can't just be a crummy
beach town. It has to have a huge castle with amazing towers and big steel gates. Think The
Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, when they have the first big dramatic shot of a
The setting of this poem is almost hyper-real, all jagged edges and steep cliffs and pounding
waves. The ocean is black and cold; the sky is filled with big boiling grey clouds. Annabel's tomb
would have to be made of black marble, huge and cold, and perched right above the ocean,
almost like it was about to fall in. And you know how the speaker talks about demons under the
sea in line 31? We don't think that's just a metaphor. We think he can really see them. When he
peeks his head over that cliff into the ocean, he can see demons writhing and slithering down
below. When he looks up in the sky he can see angels flying above, big scary angels with flaming
This poem isn't about a happy dream. It's about a living nightmare, where death is everywhere
and the world is dark and scary. Sorry about that, we wish it was happier, but we think Poe's
world in "Annabel Lee" isn't a place where you'd want to spend much time.
Sound Check
Read this poem aloud. What do you hear?
This poem has the rhythm of a great ghost story. We don't just mean that it's about spooky stuff.
It's also about the way that it sounds, the way it builds from calm and quiet to super dramatic and
intense. A good ghost story isn't about the plot; it's all about how you tell it. You have to start off
That's exactly what Poe does here. The opening words ("It was many and many a year ago") are
calming, like softly lapping waves. We can't even tell where we are headed. By the middle, he's
starting to pick up speed, and the poem starts to drum on your ear like horses' hooves: "That the
wind came out of the cloud by night, / chilling and killing my Annabel Lee." If he was telling it as a
ghost story, he would be leaning in now, his face getting closer to the firelight, and his voice would
get louder and more intense. Then, at the end, the poem explodes and gives you the big payoff
you've been waiting for. The words go off like gunshots: "my darling, my darling, my life and my
bride." That's the moment in the ghost story when the person telling it suddenly shouts, and
everyone jumps ten feet in the air. The whole rhythm and sound of the poem is designed to build
up to that final, terrible scream of passion and frustration, and even after we are done it should
still be ringing in our ears.
What’s Up With the Title?
Annabel Lee is the star of the poem, and she's the only thing in the world that matters to the
speaker. So it's not too surprising that the poem is named after her. On top of that, the title
introduces us to the sound of her name, which is important for Poe. He repeats her name seven
times, and more than half the lines in this poem end with that ee sound. It's almost like the name
is shouted out in the title, and then echoes through the rest of the poem. She is the center of this
poem, but we never learn much about her except that she was young, and her name was
Annabel Lee. In a way, the sound of her name becomes her, takes her place. It's a poem about a
girl, but also about the memory of her, the traces of her. She hasn't left much behind for him but
the sound of a name he keeps repeating. The title, always the first thing we read, is a great place
for Poe to tip us off to this theme.
Annabel Lee Theme of Love
Love is definitely the major theme of "Annabel Lee." Even if it's a little twisted in places, this is a
poem about love. At its foundation it's about a guy who loves a girl, and refuses to quit loving her.
The cool thing about this theme is that the poem doesn't stick to the sunny side of love. It digs
deep into the dangerous parts of these emotions, the way love can trap you, torment you, and
leave you sad and lonely. Love has made this guy who he is, but it's also clear that it has ruined
his life. One day he's a happy kid with a girlfriend he loves a lot, the next thing we know he's
sleeping next to a corpse every night. Love's a funny thing…
Questions About Love
Is this poem a positive or a negative depiction of love? Is this how true love should look?
How does the poem compare romantic and parental love?
Does death always make love weaker? Do you believe it could make it stronger? How
would the speaker respond to this question?
Does the depiction of the speaker's love change as the poem goes on?
5. How
Than to love and be loved by me. (lines 5-6)
6. Love is the only thing that counts for the speaker. He really fell for Annabel Lee. Even
when she was alive, loving her was the only thing that mattered to him. He says she
felt the same way, but of course we don't get to hear her side of the story. Actually,
women don't ever talk very much in Poe's poems and stories, they just hang out and
look beautiful and spooky. It would be sort of sad if it turned out that she wasn't that
into him after all.
But we loved with a love that was more than love-- (line 9)
7. Check out the way that Poe keeps raising the stakes here. The speaker already told
us that they only cared about loving each other. Now it turns out that their love was
more than love. To make sure you get the point he uses the word love three times in
a single line. We're not sure what loving more than love would be like. Sounds kind
of like multiplying infinity by infinity.
Of those who were older than we-- (line 27-28)
8. This moment could be a stirring cry of deep love. Maybe the speaker is saying that
no one, even the people who were supposed to know better, could ever love like he
loved Annabel Lee. You could also read it as a kind of competition. Maybe he means
that the love Annabel's parents felt for her wasn't as strong as the love he felt. That
seems cruel, since they lost their daughter. In fact, this whole thing could also be a
temper tantrum on the part of the speaker. Imagine our speaker yelling at his folks
about how they don't understand him and then stomping off to his room. We're not
trying to be critical of the speaker; we just want to give you a different angle on the
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee: (lines 32-33)
9. The speaker seems to feel like the whole world is trying to destroy his love for
Annabel. But he doesn't think anyone can do that, because his soul is linked to hers.
The important thing to notice here is all the ways that he emphasizes their love. This
isn't just a crush. Want to tell someone you really love them? Maybe you could try
telling them that angels and demons could never rip your souls apart. Well, maybe
Of my darling--my darling--my life and my bride (line 38-39)
10. Marriages usually last "until death do us part." Not this one. In fact, this marriage starts after death. We
don't hear anything about her being his bride until she's in the tomb, and we think it's safe to say that this
isn't the kind of marriage Annabel's rich parents had in mind. The end of this poem turns everything
upside down. When she dies, she becomes his "life." We won't push too hard on the "lie down by the
side" thing, but the speaker seems to be recreating the marriage he would have had with Annabel if she
hadn't died. We're pretty sure that Poe didn't mean for that to seem normal.
Annabel Lee Theme of Mortality
If love is the champion theme in "Annabel Lee," then mortality definitely comes in a close second.
The speaker is obsessed with how and why Annabel died. He wants to know who he can blame
for it. At the same time, the themes of death and love are tied together. The poem forces us to
ask whether death is the end and has the power to kill love or whether, in fact love can triumph
and continue after death. Maybe the speaker takes that idea a little more literally than he should,
but that's his business. In a general way, we can all relate to the ideas of grief and loss and fate
that come up when you talk about death.
Questions About Mortality
Do you think the speaker of this poem believes in life after death? Does that question
matter in the context of "Annabel Lee."
Why do you think he has to blame the jealous angels for Annabel's death?
How do you draw the line between healthy and unhealthy grief? Do you think this poem
has something to say about that difference?
Would you want to be remembered like this by your boyfriend or girlfriend?
Annabel Lee Mortality Quotes
My beautiful Annabel Lee; (lines 15-16)
This is the first time that death gets mentioned in the poem. Notice that the speaker doesn't
say she died. Actually, he never uses the word "death" in this poem at all. Why do you think
that is? Could it be because she isn't dead to him. In any case, this first mention is just a
hint, and it gives us a strong image of this beautiful young girl getting sick, her flesh growing
To shut her up in a sepulchre (line 19)
"Sepulchre," (which is a fancy old word for a tomb, or a room where you would put a dead
person) is a perfect Edgar Allan Poe word. It's kind of an unusual word, the image it calls up
is extra spooky, and it even sounds a little bit evil. The idea of Annabel being "shut up" in
this tomb is the perfect image of how her family (and even the universe) is trying to keep
her away from the speaker. She has crossed into another world, and the sepulchre is the
symbol of that change.
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee. (line 26)
This is the only moment where the speaker directly mentions the fact that Annabel Lee has
died. This line is repeated from lines 15-16, but the word "beautiful" has been replaced with
"killing." Even that little change is enough to make us feel how sharp and intense this
tragedy is. The speaker almost slaps us with the fact of her death.
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee: (lines 32-33)
Whatever you think about death and the afterlife, people usually think of the move from life
to death as a pretty big deal. Once you cross over, you don't come back, and you lose touch
with the people on this side. Poe's stories often mess with this line between life and death.
People come back from the dead, people who seemed dead aren't dead after all. In this
poem, it can be hard to tell if Annabel is gone or not, and it's clear that the speaker doesn't
think a little thing like death should get in the way of their love.
In her tomb by the sounding sea. (lines 40-41)
This is where the poem leaves us. It's definitely a little grim, and that big scary sepulchre looms over us. At the
same time, there's something almost peaceful about the rhythm of this line, and the idea of the "sounding sea."
Even though hanging out with dead people isn't our idea of a good time, it seems possible that the speaker has
found some kind of peace, even after Annabel's death.
Annabel Lee Theme of Family
This theme doesn't come up nearly as often as love and death, but it's a really neat and important
part of "Annabel Lee." This isn't a long poem, but Poe manages to weave all kinds of different
themes into it. In this case he gives us just a hint that Annabel's family doesn't think much of him,
and wants to tear the young lovers apart. In a sense, family gives him a way of talking about the
pressure of outside society, all the people who can't understand how pure and true his love is.
This is definitely an "us against the world," Romeo and Juliet kind of poem.
Questions About Family
Parents are always complaining about how teenagers think they know everything. Do
they sometimes? Do parents have any right to tell their kids who they can love?
What does including the "highborn kinsmen" add to this poem? How would it change
things if Poe had left them out?
Do you think the speaker feels the same way about Annabel's kinsmen as he does about
the jealous angels? If not, how are they different?
Annabel Lee Family Quotes
And bore her away from me, (lines 17-18)
The speaker never quite comes out and says he doesn't like Annabel's family, but you can
almost hear how crabby he is about this "highborn kinsman." We think there's a bit of a "kid
from the wrong side of the tracks" theme here. It's just a hint, but it adds some extra
tension and texture to the plot.
In this kingdom by the sea. (lines 19-20)
Death is the thing that first comes between the speaker and his beloved. But then the family
comes in and seals the deal, taking her away for good and literally shutting her away from
him in a tomb. We almost get the feeling that he thinks the family, and not death, are the
bad guys here. In any case the speaker has a pretty paranoid, "us against the world"
approach to this whole situation.
Of those who were older than we--(lines 27-28)
This looks to us like another swipe at those "highborn kinsmen" that he's obviously not so
crazy about. Instead of letting himself get pushed around by these older people, he insists
that he has something they don't – the strongest love in the world. It's a feeling a lot of us
can probably relate to. It's annoying to be told that you must not know what you are talking
about because you are young.
Of many far wiser than we-- (line 29)
This opens up a bunch of questions about whether love and wisdom have anything to do with each other. Do you
need to be wise and experienced in order to love completely? Can you make decisions for yourself about love
when you are a kid? A lot of people would say no, or suggest that you should listen to people who are older than
you, but our speaker doesn't seem to feel that way at all. He knows that other people must have more wisdom,
but he doesn't think that gives them any right to judge his relationship, or to tell him what to do. He rejects the
standard ways of deciding who should be in control (more knowledge, more years), and puts love at the top of the
Annabel Lee Theme of The Supernatural
Not only are the adults in this poem against the young lovers, it turns out that heaven and hell are
lining up against them too. At least that's the speaker's theory. He never quite comes out and
accuses God of taking away his girlfriend, but that seems like where he's headed. It's not exactly
a religious deal, he just seems like a paranoid guy who thinks the whole universe, even the parts
he can't see, is ganging up against him. When tragedy strikes, it's not uncommon for people to
ask big angry questions about heaven and earth.
Questions About The Supernatural
What's with all the angels and demons stuff? Is the speaker really blaming God for
Annabel's death?
Do you think this poem is meant to sound like a real story? Do the angels make it sound
more like a fairy tale than something that happened?
When you read all that spooky stuff in the last stanza, do you feel like Annabel is coming
back to life?
Could this be a kind of ghost story rather than a love story? Is it both?
Annabel Lee The Supernatural Quotes
Coveted her and me. (lines 11-12)
This is the beginning of a sort of weird conspiracy theory that the speaker lets us in on. For
some reason he thinks that the angels ("winged seraphs") in heaven were so impressed by
his love that they wanted it for themselves, and so decided to snatch Annabel away from
him. This doesn't sound like super angelic behavior to us, and it drives home the fact that
Poe's world is often a pretty scary place to be. Most of us think of angels as comforting
guardians who are above being jealous of people. For Poe, though, the world is full of
dangerous forces, and heaven and hell and fate are all lining up to mess up human lives.
Went envying her and me-- (lines 21-22)
A little more of the scary angels business. He underlines the fact that the angels are jealous
of his and Annabel's love, and that they are out to destroy it. Notice the way that this little
subplot adds to the richness and the weirdness of the poem. With the angels in there, it isn't
just a sad story about a boy and a girl. Suddenly it's a fable about a universe that is way out
of whack.
Nor the demons down under the sea, (lines30-31)
Now he spreads it out a little, and adds some more characters to his creepy ghost world. Not
only the jealous angels and the rich parents, but also the underwater demons are now after
him and Annabel. This also makes the sea seem like kind of a scary, evil place, which is
important, since it's such a major part of the poem. The spirit world is everywhere here, and
we get pulled into it as we follow our speaker in his pursuit of Annabel Lee. In a way, this
poem forces us to cross over into the world of death and demons along with him.
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; (lines 36-37)
This is definitely a supernatural moment, even though it doesn't mention angels or ghosts or demons. Look
carefully at the words the speaker uses. He doesn't say that he thinks about her when the stars rise, or that he
imagines she is there. He says that he can feel her eyes on him. It's an intense, scary moment, and it plays into
the sense that Annabel might not really be gone, just lurking somewhere, waiting for us to find her. This line
suggests that the speaker might be a little unbalanced, but it also lets us know that he's straining to keep
Annabel's memory alive.
Annabel Lee Theme of Man and the Natural World
Even with all of these big questions on our plate, we can't forget about the importance of nature in
"Annabel Lee." It's not something the speaker makes a big deal of, but nature is everywhere in
this poem. The sea is the biggest example, but we also hear about the wind and the clouds and
the stars and the moon. Sometimes it's a quiet, steady presence in the background, but like
everything else in this poem, nature is always a little bit scary and threatening. You never quite
imagine that sea being sunny and pretty, do you?
Questions About Man and the Natural World
Why does Poe start and end this poem by talking about the sea? Is it just a sound, or a
place, or maybe a metaphor?
Do you get a picture in your head of what the kingdom by the sea looks like? Would you
want to live there?
Does the natural world seem good or evil in this poem?
Do you see the moon and the stars as beautiful and comforting or spooky and disturbing?
Annabel Lee Man and the Natural World Quotes
In a kingdom by the sea, (line 2)
The sea is everywhere in this poem. It comes up so many times that you might stop noticing
it, but it's an important image, and it keeps this fantasy grounded in something you can
understand. Like with everything else in this poem, Poe doesn't go out of his way to describe
the sea. He doesn't call it "bright" or "stormy" or anything like that. We don't know anything
about its color, but somehow we can feel it out there, a constant presence. The poem is
about love and death and angels and all the rest, but it's anchored in the natural world.
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling (line 15)
That natural world can be scary too. Here we find out that the thing that killed Annabel was
a wind from a cloud. Our speaker's theory is that it was sent by the angels, but it's the
natural world that does the dirty work. Again, we're not talking about happy nature poetry
here. Poe's world, natural or not, is always a little dark, scary, and ugly, and even slightly
insane. When even the clouds are trying to kill you, you know you're in trouble.
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; (lines 34-35)
Could this be a comforting nature moment? Are things OK now, even for just a minute?
Maybe, since Annabel is the one person he misses most, and the moon brings a reminder of
her. At the same time, we don't know if these are happy dreams, and it seems like they
might not be, since our poor speaker always seems so tormented. He doesn't want to be
separated from her, but maybe he should be. He seems like a slave to the memory of a dead
girl, and the moon seems to be helping to keep him that way.
In her tomb by the sounding sea. (line 41)
Here we are, back at the sea again. We think those last two words are brilliant. We don't even know what
"sounding sea" means. Maybe something like booming? But that little bit of mystery seems like the perfect cap to
a spooky, strange poem. We also like the way it weaves us back to the natural world, to the sea where we began.
After all that drama and excitement, we're left with nothing but the ocean.
Annabel Lee Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
1. Do you think this poem is about true love or about scary obsession? Can someone feel
both feelings at the same time, or does one cancel out the other?
2. Do you get a picture in your mind of the speaker? If so, where does it come from? How do
you think Poe builds his character over the course of the poem?
3. Is real love possible at a young age? Do you need to be fully grown in order to really fall
in love?
4. Do you think the end of this poem is beautiful? Do you think its weird subject matter
makes it more or less appealing?