As Halloween draws near, I felt it appropriate to write about one of Edgar Allan Poe’s works. When I was in elementary school, the first poem that I memorized was “Annabel Lee.” Although I did not grasp the imagery and symbolism completely, I connected to the dark feelings inspired by the poem. It felt like it came right out of the TV series Dark Shadows, which I watched religiously as a kid.
The poem expresses the feeling of loss and despair associated with the death of a loved one. The protagonist rails against the angels, blaming their jealousy as the reason why Annabel Lee died. Near the end of the poem, there are hints that his feeling of loss has taken an even darker turn, driving him to lay with her body within the tomb and hinting at possible necrophilia.
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.
I see another metaphor here that deserves mention and changes the necrophilia interpretation. The image of the sea is repeated throughout the poem, so one must assume that Poe intended to do this for a reason. In literature, I often interpret the sea or ocean as a metaphor for the subconscious mind. If you read the poem from this perspective, then the protagonist is keeping the memory of his wife alive, particularly while dreaming. It then becomes apparent that he is losing himself in dreams, or possibly an opium-induced revery, and choosing to dwell in that state where his lost love still exists.
This is a great poem and one of my favorites. It’s accessible yet deep and evocative. If you have not read it, or have not read it in a while, I encourage you to do so. Click here to read the poem online.