Study the form of the poem and bring to light the importance of rhyme and rhythm.
Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘Annabel Lee’ uses rhythm and rhymes to express the importance of the events, the characters and, most importantly, their love. Indeed, repetitions, alliterations and many other literary devices are used to highlight ideas.
One of the most noticeable elements in this poem is the repetition of ‘kingdom by the sea’. It is repeated five times: once in the first and second stanza on the second line (lines 2 and 8), twice in the third stanza (l. 14 and 20) and once in the fourth stanza (l. 24). We can see that from the third stanza, when the author begins to talk about Annabel Lee’s death, the rhythm with ‘kingdom by the sea’ begins to change, it is repeated a bit sooner than it should be if the rhythm were constant: her death disrupts everything.
In this poem, we feel that the sea and the tide can be compared to love. Indeed, both notions are infinite but unstable. This metaphor could explain the alternation of long and short verses in the first two stanzas, reminding us of the rhythm of the tide. However, the lovers are said to live in a ‘kingdom’: they are above the sea and therefore above any ordinary love – they are king and queen of love; their love is perfect. Their feelings are completely stable, at least until Annabel Lee’s death (as aforementioned) in the third stanza, at the same time as this tide rhythm ends. Indeed, the tide is something unstable but eternal. It creates a kind of life or lifestyle, a tranquility of sorts. The unexpected death of Annabel Lee breaks all of this and changes everything.
In Poe’s poem, we can also observe about how the terrestrial and the cosmic are represented. Here the terrestrial is symbolized by Annabel Lee and her lover and the sea, while the cosmic is symbolized by the angels. According to pre-Cartesian science, whatever happens in the higher spheres of the universe that is not appropriate, that doesn’t abide with the rules will eventually affect life on earth, in other words, cosmic disorder will cause terrestrial disorder. ( the opposite is also true. In Macbeth for example, the assassination of the lawful king – in other words not only a regicide but also a deicide - causes the Heavens to be “troubled with man’s act”, horses “eat each other” and “stones are known to move and trees to speak”, Act II, scene 4 & Act III, scene 4)
The winds can be seen as the first link: they have been sent down to earth by the angels. However the major link between the terrestrial and the cosmic is Annabel Lee: in her first years on earth, she falls in love with a human and their love is above all else, causing jealousy among the angels. Moreover, we can assume that after her death she becomes an angel and goes up to heaven. Her death changes everything, which proves its importance on earth and in heaven. These disturbances affect the structure of the poem, just as they affect the movement of the sea. The angels’ misconduct and Annabel Lee’s death are unnatural events happening in the higher spheres that cause the sea to lose its pace. It follows that Annabel Lee is much more than a simple human being.
We think that the poem is structured in a way that divides it into two patterns: the first containing stanzas one, two, and four when the author is talking about Annabel Lee when she is alive, and the second pattern with stanzas three, five and six, when Annabel Lee is dead. Indeed the ‘long short long short’ rhythm can only be observed in this first pattern, disrupted by the character’s death.
However, the poem’s structure could also be construed in a different way: the disruption in the poem only affecting the third stanza, when Annabel Lee dies; the initial pattern resuming from line 21.
Strikingly, the most frequent rhyme in this poem is that of the sound –ea. Indeed, it reoccurs in the words ‘me’, ‘Annabel Lee’, ‘we’ and ‘sea’. Here these words are merged into one: they are one, same entity. It is just the three of them in this ‘kingdom’.
Furthermore, we can observe a certain musicality through this poem, for example in the girl’s name, which is much more romantic and delicate than Poe’s wife’s real name, Virginia Clem, explaining the author’s choice. In lines 7, 9, 32 and 39, the repetitions of the words ‘child’, ‘love’, ‘soul’ and ‘darling’ introduces alliterations and assonances, reinforcing the musicality. These words make the lovers appear as one: their love unites them, both children sharing the same soul.
From this analysis, we can say that there is as much meaning in the structure of the poem as there is in its words. Indeed, it proves to us the importance of the main character’s name, the symbolism of the tide, their location ‘kingdom by the sea’, and the tension between earth and heaven, the lovers and the angels.
Lily, with Yulius, Emma and Lucie