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The works of the American author Edgar Allan Poe are the bright examples of the neo-gothic style. His prose and poems are filled with dark mysticism and symbolic figures. Poe’s poetry can sometimes bring readers to a sense of sadness, fear, or anger. The Raven and Annabel Lee are examples of such works. There is a belief that both poems were influenced by the early death of his young wife, Virginia Clemm (Meltzer, 2003, p. 27). Although the plot is different in each of these poems, both Annabel Lee and The Raven share the themes of death and lost love, as well as the symbolic language.
The main theme of Annabel Lee is love. The narrator claims that his love with Annabel was “stronger by far than the love of those who were older” (Poe, 2012, p. 73). Unlike many other pieces of poetry, this work brings up the idea that love is not always a happy feeling. The narrator claims that “the moon never beams” and “the stars never rise” (Poe, 2012, p. 73) without reminding him of his lost love. The same attitude towards love can be traced to The Raven. The poem reveals the narrator’s “sorrow for the lost Lenore” (Poe, 2012, p. 61). Both poems share the theme of death. Annabel Lee has the final lines telling that the narrator lies by the side of his loved one “in her tomb by the sounding sea” (Poe, 2012, p. 73). The Raven also features death as one of the important subjects through the repeated word “nevermore” (Poe, 2012), which can be understood as the sign that nothing is eternal, and everything will eventually seize to exist.
Annabel Lee mentions “the kingdom by the sea” (Poe, 2012, p. 72) several times. The image of the sea is used to draw similarities between the roaring, yet empty, nature to the narrator’s heart that is filled with sorrow after losing his loved one. The same emptiness in The Raven is translated through the act of “deep into the darkness peering” (Poe, 2012, p. 61). The darkness represents the shadows that have fallen onto the speaker’s soul. Moreover, the raven is seen in many cultures as the symbol of death. It is possible that death has come to the narrator and he perceives it as the possibility to let go of the bitter memories of the past.
Another symbol that is shared by both poems is the reference to mythical creatures. In Annabel Lee, the narrator blames “angels in heaven above” and “demons down under the sea” (Poe, 2012, p. 73) for trying to separate him from his love. Angels are also mentioned in The Raven as the forces who took away his love and are now trying to make him forget about her (Poe, 2012).
Both poems are filled with sorrow. It is evident how the narrator feels sad about losing Lenore. For example, the line “vainly I had thought to borrow from my books surcease of sorrow” (Poe, 2012, p. 61) explains the attempts to forget about the grief. Annabel Lee has a line “my darling – my darling – my life and my bride” (Poe, 2012, p.73) that resembles the lamenting over a dead person. However, this poem is also filled with anger, as the narrator claims that angels “were envying” him and his love (Poe, 2012, p. 72). He holds Heaven responsible for taking away his happiness. Some sense of anger can be traced in The Raven though such lines, for example, as “all my soul within me burning” (Poe, 2012, p. 61). While this can be the sign of fear, the narrator is most likely irritated by the late visitor who would not appear from the darkness.
The sound structures of the two poems are different. In Annabel Lee, the rhyme structure does not have a uniform pattern. For instance, the first and the third lines rhyme together like “ago” and “know,” just as the second and fourth lines do with “sea” and “Lea” (Poe, 2012, p. 72). However, the fifth line does not have the rhyme, for the word “thought” (Poe, 2012, p. 72) does not match any of the piece’s endings. The poem’s structure resembles the sea, as long and short lines look like the waves falling onto the shore.
In The Raven, Poe (2012) uses verbs like “tapping” and “rapping” (p. 61) to underline the stress that the narrator feels throughout the event. Another example of sound usage is the word “nevermore” (Poe, 2012) repeated by the raven throughout the whole poem. Although birds cannot talk, this word starts to resemble a raven’s croak after reading it several times.
Annabel Lee and The Raven share the theme of love, death, and despair. The tone of both poems does not lack the attitude of anger towards the higher forces. These works illustrate how love can be not only the source of joy but also bring sad feelings.
Meltzer, M. (2003). Edgar Allan Poe: A biography. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books.
Poe, E. A. (2012). Edgar Allan Poe: Selected poetry and tales. J. M. Hutchisson (Ed.). Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press.