Where is Romanticism used in the poem "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe?

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Jonathan Beutlich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Romanticism is a literary movement that occurred in the early 1800s. Romanticism tends to emphasize the power and importance of nature. Essentially, nature is something to be worshiped as a supernatural force of sorts. By communing with nature, a person can receive special knowledge and insights as well as obtain a spiritual harmony. If that sounds goofy, think of it like this: Romantics would see cities as bad and nature as good. Romanticism also tends to focus on feelings instead of logic. This is a reaction against the previous Age of Reason. Emotions are important to Romantic authors. Additionally, Romanticism generally focuses on the common man instead of some high-class nobleman. There also tends to be an emphasis on youth in Romanticism.

Annabel Lee” contains many Romantic elements. Stanza 2 alerts readers to the poem’s emphasis on youth. We are told that the narrator and Annabel Lee were young when they fell in love with each other.

She was a child and I was a child,

We are also told that their love, as young love, was incredibly strong. It was stronger than the love of people who have much more experience loving.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we—

Readers are also under the impression that the narrator is not a person of high social class. The narrator specifically points out that Annabel Lee’s family is “high-born.” It seems to me that the narrator is pointing out a difference between himself and her family.

The poem strongly emphasizes nature’s presence. Readers are told over and over again about the sea; however, that is not the only emphasis on nature in the poem. The final stanza has the narrator specifically describing moonbeams and rising stars.

Finally, “Annabel Lee” is quite an emotionally driven poem. The narrator is lamenting the loss of his love. He feels lost and incomplete without Annabel Lee. Readers get a real sense of how passionate and emotional their relationship was with the following lines.

But we loved with a love that was more than love—

I and my Annabel Lee;

With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven

Coveted her and me.

Logically, that doesn’t make much sense. What is love that is more than love? It’s also not logical (according to standard Christian doctrine) that angels would covet and be jealous of humans. Poe isn’t trying to be logical. A reader who has experienced profound young love would completely understand those lines from an emotional point of view.

The final lines of the poem are quite emotionally dark.

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,

In her sepulchre there by the sea,

In her tomb by the side of the sea.

These lines quite overtly point out that the narrator isn’t necessarily in his right mind. His emotional attachment to Annabel Lee is so deep that he hasn’t been able to “dissever” his soul from her. He feels just as close to her in death as he did in life. That would explain why the narrator lies down next to her dead body each night. That image is not so much a sweet loving image as it is an image verging on necrophilia. That final image definitely causes this poem’s Romantic elements to turn a bit darker.

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jmj616 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Romanticism was a literary movement that lasted from approximately  1789 to 1832.  Two important features of Romanticism were:

     *the idea that an individual's feelings were more

       important than the traditions of religion or society

      *the idea that feeling, emotion, and dreams are

        more important,  and more accurate, than  logic

        and  analysis.

Although Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee" was written in 1849, seventeen years after the "official" end of the Romantic movement, the poem is a classic example of Romanticism.

In describing his love for Annabel Lee, the poet states that "the winged seraphs [angels] of Heaven / Coveted her and me"; he further states that it was the angels who killed Annabel because of their jealousy.  I doubt that this idea of angels coveting human lovers is found in the doctines of Christianity, the religion that Poe was most familiar with. Rather, it is an example of the Romantic notion that one's feelings, rather than received tradition, are the truest source of esoteric knowledge.  

In the last stanza, the poet writes:

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

This, of course, is not logical.  No scientist would ever observe a lover's "bright eyes" in the shine of a star.  To the Romantic, however, his imagination and dreams are more real than the logical observation of a scientist.  

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