Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dark Romance with Edgar Allan Poe

My father used to read the poem Annabel Lee to me.  Even when I was too small to understand the context, I could tell by the words and my father's mournful delivery that it was a tragic tale.  A haunting tale.  An ode filled with sorrow.  It is my favorite poem. 

Although dark and tragic and about death, it is a wonderful example of literary Romanticism, for which Poe is known for.  Romanticism was an artistic movement in the 18th and 19th Century that had more of a spiritual attitude than artforms preceding it.  This genre tended to move away from, and question realism, convention and "rational thought" and gravitate to nature and sentimental reflection, especially the topic of the artist alone with nature.  I picture the scene in Pride and Prejudice when Lizzie stands on the cliff with the wind blowing her skirt as an example.

In the poem Annabel Lee, Poe or the narrator if you prefer, states that he and his bride lived in a "kingdom by the sea."  When two people are in love, any home would be their realm and this line sets the tone for a storybook mood.  Also, it reflects their insular setting with nature.  He refers to Annabel Lee as a maiden, which some speculate to literally mean virgin, but I feel that again it is a word that goes back to a romantic era and goes hand in hand with a "kingdom."  These choices lend themselves well to the style of Romanticism.

By referring to themselves as children he gives a clue to their innocence.  They have no cares except to love each other unburdened by anything else in life.  The fact that even the angels are jealous of their love has always been the most powerful part of this poem for me.  Angels, who are supposed to be the most elevated and pure beings cannot bear the feelings of Annabel Lee and her true love as it even surpasses their reach.  Perhaps he means this literally or perhaps in his grief he rationalizes that this could be the only explanation for her death.  Even after death it seems that the narrator's love will never wane, his feelings as strong as ever.  Their love is frozen in time and entombed just like his bride and nothing, not time nor death can diminish their emotions.

The poem is further more real because it is written in first person and the reader truly feels the despair and desolation, another style that Poe is known for as well as for his strong, deep and dark emotions.

Annabel Lee
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 the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Edgar Allan Poe





Photo published by Dodd, Mead and Co, NY, 1898 (American Bookmen) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

11 comments:

kimbacaffeinate said...

I love Poe and this is one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing it and the story about your Dad..i think its wonderful <3

Jennifer | Book Den said...

What a beautiful memory.

lostinsidethecovers said...

What a wonderful post! I have been wanting to dig into my Poe book lately, this makes me want to more!

Kimberly @ On the Wings of Books said...

What a great memory to have with your father!

Did you know that we have a Poe museum here in VA? Just tossing that out there...

fakesteph said...

I love this poem! There is a musical version that I listen to all the time! It's by Sarah Jarosz and it is so freaking good!

Midnyte Reader said...

@Kimba-Thank you for stopping by. I didn't realize the specialness of the memory until so much later in life.

@Jennifer-Thank you so much!

@Lost-I know what you mean! I miss reading Poe.

@Kimberly-I didn't know there was one in VA. But I visited the one in Baltimore and we have one up here in the Bronx.

@Steph-I am going to look that up in ITunes. Thanks!

DarkEva said...

Wonderful post, Midnyte! I, too, became obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe when I was a wee youngin' and haven't stopped obsessing since ;-) Annabel Lee is one of his best poems :-)

-D

Midnyte Reader said...

@DarkEva-I am totally obsessed, but wish I was a little more learned on his works and his life.

Kate Midnight Book Girl said...

My first touch of Poe love came with Tell-Tale Heart. It's the first story that I ever read aloud just because it begs to be spoken. I actually read it to my niece Sam when she was a baby... which actually explains a lot of things...

Annabel Lee is such a gorgeous poem, and I love that your dad used to read it to you. Someday you need to visit us down here in Richmond and we'll take you to the Poe museum!

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