The Death of Annabel Lee and Virginia Clemm
Poetry is a fine art; it can be interpreted in many different ways, it is a complex piece of literature that can carry much more meaning than just the words on the surface. Edgar Allan Poe, author of the piece “Annabel Lee”, writes about a young couple who are in love with each other. The speaker of the poem shares a passionate love towards his dear Annabel Lee, but once his lover was taken away from him due to sickness; his overabundance of love towards her was the cause of his own death. If you look at Poe’s life prior to writing “Annabel Lee”, there is a clear parallel between the speaker of the poem and Poe himself, implying that Poe was writing about his relationship with, and the death of his wife Virginia Clemm Poe. There’s no doubt that the speaker of the poem was in love with his Annabel Lee, but before learning about the speaker of the poem it is important to understand the author, Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was born on January 19th 1809 and died on December 7th 1849 (Academy of American Poets), just two months after he published “Annabel Lee”. There is a reason “Annabel Lee” was his last poem to be published before his death, it is not simply coincidence. For instance, Virginia Clemm Poe, Poe’s wife married him at a very young age; which is similar to the speaker and Annabel Lee in the poem. There are several parallels that could prove that Poe had written this poem about the death of his “Annabel Lee,” Virginia Clemm. Author of the book: Collected Words of Edgar Allan Poe Vol. 1, Thomas Ollive Mabbott states that, “Poe’s “Annabel Lee” is the simplest and sweetest of his ballads…other ladies have been thought to be the original Annabel Lee [but] it has long and generally been regarded as a tribute to the memory of Virginia Poe” (Mabbott 468). After Virginia’s death in 1847 it is clear that Poe had been distraught and lonely when he wrote about his beloved Virginia through a fictional character’s eyes (the speaker) about Annabel Lee. It was his way of remembering his lost love before his death two months later. Towards the end of the poem, the speaker states Annabel Lee was his “Life and his bride” (Poe 7) and that “the maiden lived with no other thought than to love and to be loved by me” (Poe 7). These quotes clearly state that the speaker of the poem lived solely for Annabel Lee. The two of them lived for each other much like Virginia and Poe lived for each other. Poe himself lived a happy ten plus years with Virginia and she supported him as he attempted to make a living as a writer (Velella). Poe was also known to be a very depressed and passionate man. Virginia, like Annabel Lee to the speaker, was Poe’s motivation, his reason for getting up in the morning, his light. The speaker in the poem was also a very passionate man and once his Annabel Lee died it was clear that he became depressed, and grieved for her; even so much as blaming the gods for taking her away from him. 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. (Poe 20-26)
The “wind” that “chilled and killed” his Annabel Lee can be used to symbolize two different theories one being sickness, which both Annabel Lee and Virginia Clemm died from. It is unknown as to what kind of sickness Annabel Lee had been killed by but it’s convenient enough that Virginia Poe as well died from a horrible disease. American Literatures independent scholar, Robert Velella said: “[Virginia] faithfully followed [Poe] from Baltimore to Virginia to New York to Philadelphia back to New York as he sought work. It was in Philadelphia that Mrs. Poe first displayed symptoms of "consumption," today called tuberculosis. She died five years after that incident, in New York, on January 30, 1847. She was 24 years old” (Velella). It can be...
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Velella, Rob. "Death of Virginia Clemm Poe." Blogspot. The American Literary Blog, 10 Jan. 2010. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
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