Edgar Allan Poe lived a haunted life from the desertion of his father at a young age to the death of his mother at the age of three, his life was as dark as his poems. Edgar Allan Poe was raised by his godfather, John Allan a wealthy merchant, but their relationship was tumultuous. Poe attended the University of Virginia; however, his gambling caused his godfather to remove him from the university. Poe returned home to find his sweetheart engaged to someone else. Poe then moved to Boston, however more miseries followed him, and poverty forced him to join the army. John Allan had him released from the Army when his stepmother died and assisted him in getting into West Point Academy. Edgar Allan Poe got himself expelled for refusing to attend classes or drills. During this time, Poe was becoming a prolific writer publishing Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems in 1829, and then a volume of Poems in New York City. In 1833, he won fifty dollars from “MS. Found in a Bottle”. He became a critical reviewer and was an editor for the Southern Literary Messenger. In one of the more controversial moves, he married his cousin, Virginia who was 13 at the time. Virginia was Edgar Allan Poe’s true love, and despite their age difference he showed true gentleness and devotedness towards her. Poe’s trials continued as his drinking began affecting his work performance and he was fired from his job. Even though Poe was considered a prolific poet, he continued to struggle financially. As a final blow, his wife Virginia died in 1947 from tuberculous, and his poem “Annabelle Lee” is thought to be written as a memorial to her. Poe followed her two years later in death as he succumbed to “congestion of the brain” (4, Edgar Allan Poe Biography). Edgar Allan Poe’s dark themes of his poetry was echoed by the travails of his life. He allowed his imagination to shape his poetry sprinkled with the occult. His gentleness towards women can be seen in his several of his writings such as “Annabel Lee”, “Eleonora”, and “To One in Paradise”. Through critical analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” from the Romantic perspective, he developed the intent through words, images, and signs in the text of the poem through his use of tone, diction and imagery.
First, when looking at “Annabel Lee”, it needs to be noted that the poem was written about his beloved wife, Virginia. “But we loved with a love that was more than a love--- I and my Annabel Lee--- With a love that the winged seraphs in Heaven Coveted her and me” (lines 9-12, Poe) In this comparison even the angels in Heaven are envious of their love, and because of this envy they take away his Annabel Lee. The imagery of the “kingdom by the sea” that Poe reiterates throughout the poem indicates that he thought of their life as his Camelot, his version of perfection and the truest of loves. Their love was the strongest of loves, so much so that “neither the angels in Heaven above, Nor demons down under the sea, Can ever dissever my soul from the soul Of the beautiful Annabel Lee” (lines 30-33, Poe). Poe intimates that even in death, they cannot be separated. For even the moon brings him dreams of her and the stars remind him of her eyes as Poe uses imagery to invoke emotion in the reader. Subsequently, it is obvious that Edgar Allan Poe used imagery of words to arouse a sentiment in the reader of the passion and love that was shared between them.
Edgar Allen Poe’s main intent of “Annabel Lee” was to allow the reader to feel an emotional response to the poem. In fact, this poem has an almost dirge-like feel to it, as it reads subtly onomatopoetic, “sounding sea”, and anapestic tetrameter with a unique rhythm. (468, Mabbott) The poem’s rhythm almost lulls you as read each line. Poe actually reviewed similar types of poems, “Bryant in 1837, he called attention to the peculiar metrical structure of Wordsworth’s “many and many a song” in an early version of “Guilt and Sorrow,” and in 1845 himself wrote “many and many a marvelous shrine” in an iambic poem” (468, Mabbott). This unique rhythm adds to the feeling of sadness and mourning that is ever present throughout the poem.
Edgar Allan Poe uses figurative language, diction and tone to express the loss of a love that will never be forgotten. Edgar Allan Poe uses imagery and figurative language to show the shift in the mood of the poem. The Kingdom by the Sea is a refrain used in the first half of the poem, that is then replaced with the sepulcher by the sea at the end. This is used by Edgar Allan Poe as a shift in imagery that allows the reader to transition from the love and devotion to sadness and mourning of her death. Next, diction is used to establish the romantic, although morbid poem. Edgar Allan Poe’s word choice alludes to an earlier time, as he uses words such a sepulcher, kinsman and maiden, perhaps these word choices helped him distance himself from the death of his wife, who it is widely thought that the poem was written about. Much of his diction is romantic in nature such as “And this maiden lived with no other thought Than to love and be loved by me” (lines 5-6, Poe). Finally, the tone of the poem follows in true Poe tradition as it is both dark and morbid, although the poem does start joyous as he talks about his love. “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---” (lines 7-10, Poe). Referring back to “Annabel Lee” where the angels were envious of their love, Poe illustrates the dark and windy night that Annabel Lee was taken away in the following line “That the wind came out of the cloud by night, Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee” (lines 25-26, Poe). This is an ominous turn of events in the poem, taking the poem from that of romantic love to death, loss, and mourning. The dark tone continues throughout the poem and culminates when he lies down next to her sepulcher to sleep throughout the night to be close to his dead bride “And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side Of my darling---my darling---my life and my bride, In her sepulcher there by the sea--- In her tomb by the sounding sea” (lines 38-41, Poe).
Edgar Allan Poe was a prolific writer who never profited monetarily from his works. He lived a haunted life full of trials and tribulations that culminated in the death of his beloved wife. Edgar Allan Poe used many literary devices to move the reader. In “Annabel Lee” he uses tone, diction, and figurative language to dictate the mood and bring the reader along his journey of gentleness, love, loss, and mourning.
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