Long ago, "in a kingdom by the sea," lived Annabel Lee, who loved the narrator. Both she and the narrator were children but knew love more powerful than that of the angels, who envied them. A wind chilled and killed Annabel, but their love was too strong to be defeated by angels or demons. The narrator is reminded of Annabel Lee by everything, including the moon and the stars, and at night, he lies by her tomb by the sea.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote "Annabel Lee" in May 1849, a few months before his death, and it first appeared in The Southern Literary Messenger posthumously in November 1849. Although the poem may refer to a number of women in Poe's life, most acknowledge it to be in memory of Virginia Clemm, Poe's wife who married him at the age of thirteen and who died in 1847 before she turned twenty-five. The work returns to Poe's frequent fixation with the Romantic image of a beautiful woman who has died too suddenly in the flush of youth. As indicated more thoroughly in his short story "The Oval Portrait," Poe often associated death with the freezing and capturing of beauty, and many of his heroines reach the pinnacle of loveliness on their deathbed, as with Ligeia of the eponymous story.
The poem specifically mentions the youth of the unnamed narrator and especially of Annabel Lee, and it celebrates child-like emotions in a way consistent with the ideals of the Romantic era. Many Romantics from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries viewed adulthood as a corruption of the purer instincts of childhood, and they preferred nature to society because they considered it to be a better and more instinctive state. Accordingly, Poe treats the narrator's childhood love for Annabel Lee as fuller and more eternal than the love of adults. Annabel Lee is gentle and persistent in her love, and she has no complex emotions that may darken or complicate her love.
The poem's setting has several Gothic elements, as the kingdom by the sea is lonely and in an...