Sometimes it is necessary to sit down and read a good piece of poetry, here’s one of Edgar Allan Poe’s Capolavori,
“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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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:
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;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling–my darling–my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Rome & Juliet.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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 apart.
- 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.
- Now we arrive at the reason why this could never be a sweet pop song or a Disney movie. Because their love is unbroken, because they can’t be separated by death, our speaker spends his nights curled up next to Annabel’s dead body.
- After he hits us with that super-disturbing image, he follows it up by telling us that she is his darling, his life, and his bride. They were not married in life, but now they can be united in death.
- The speaker seems increasingly obsessed and unbalanced as the poem goes on, and this is what it all leads to. He is half-alive and half-dead, sleeping in a tomb by the ocean.
- Poe leaves us with one last haunting phrase, “the sounding sea,” which makes us think of the booming roar of the ocean, suddenly terrifying and cold. Sorry, there’s definitely no happy ending here.
[Analysis from the website: http://www.shmoop.com/annabel-lee/ ]