The poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe is written to tell the story of the speaker’s greatest love. The speaker and Annabel Lee loved each other with “a love that was more than love” until she fell ill and died (9). The speaker blames the angels for killing his darling and proves his love for her by attending her graveside every day for the rest of his life.
One way the speaker demonstrates his love is by describing their home (the setting of the poem) as a “kingdom by the sea” (2). This means the speaker sees himself as royalty because the love he and Annabel Lee share makes him so incredibly wealthy and powerful. This power and wealth was so great, in fact, that “heaven coveted” the love about which Edgar Allen Poe wrote (10). The angels were jealous of this love being shared on earth, which was apparently more wonderful than anything they had experienced in heaven as angels. The use of the word “coveted” implies a darker meaning. This was not the simple jealousy of a teenage girl. The angels were committing a sin, breaking one of the commandments of their Divine Master by coveting the love between two of His children. Finally, the speaker’s grief at her death further implies the depth and strength of their love. It is logical that the greater the love, the greater the grief; the inverse is also true: the greater the grief, the greater the love. Instead of merely being laid to rest in a coffin or a grave, death “shut her up in a sepulcher” there “by the sea” (19, 40). Sepulcher brings such dark connotations that we can almost see the speaker shrouded in black after her death, mourning as deeply as the sea next to her tomb.
Edgar Allen Poe contributed to the extremity of the poem by using a tone of reverence and pride. This is not some silly poem about puppy love. The love shared by Annabel Lee and the speaker was serious, and seems to be one we can only refer to with a sense of sobriety and admiration. In line 28, the speaker refers to his pride by comparing himself to those older and wiser, saying that he had experienced a love that “was stronger by far” than anything those older and wiser had experienced. The tone of reverence is emphasized by imagery of heaven and hell in lines 30 through 33, and of the celestial bodies of lines 34 through 37. To a spiritual man, nothing is more serious than issues of heaven and hell, angels and demons; and to a man of science, nothing is more sacred than the laws of the universe that rule the moon and the stars. Poe wanted to bring all his readers to place that would allow them to regard Annabel Lee in the highest regard that each reader could.
Shifts in the poem occur regularly throughout the piece (2-3, 12-13, 26-27, 34-35). These shifts are extremely effective in keeping a comforting mood in place to go hand in hand with the somberness of the poem. They keep the speaker from lingering too long on a dark moment or depressing thought. In addition, these shifts keep the plot of this narrative poem moving along. The shifts move the reader from exposition to climax, and finally to the resolution of the speaker to abide the loss of his love and remain by her side and honor their love forever.
The central message communicated throughout the entirety of the poem is that love transcends death: love continues even when death separates. Several examples that exemplify this message are included in the poem. The love Annabel Lee and the speaker experienced reached beyond the barriers of life and death and caused the angels to be “envying her and me” (22). After the death of Annabel Lee, their love continues “all the night-tide” (38) because nothing, not even death could separate “my soul from the soul of the beautiful Annabel Lee” (32-33).
The title of the poem, “Annabel Lee” is extremely appropriate for the fact that it emphasizes again the central figure in the speaker’s life. Not only that, but by lending this poem her name, it immortalizes Annabel Lee. She may not be able to live forever, but the love she shared with the speaker will live on forever in the lines of this poem. By titling the poem “Annabel Lee,” Edgar Allen Poe is able to give her in death what he was not able to give her in life – immortality.