Summary and Analysis: Lines 1-20

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 595

Lines 1-2:
Poe introduces the setting of "Annabel Lee" in these lines. Though vague, his use of "many and many a year ago" shows with its repetition that the poem will tell about an event that occurred in the far past. The physical location "a kingdom by the sea" and the use of the abstract time frame produce a romantic, legendary quality for the narrative setting. These lines also establish the rhythmical use of anapests and iambs. Here, however, the first two syllables may be read as a spondee, a combination of two stressed syllables in a row. If one emphasizes both words "It was" and keeps stress also on the first syllable of "many," the poem begins with the strong effect of three stressed syllables in a row.

Lines 3-4:
These lines introduce the character of Annabel Lee. Her description as someone "whom you may know" adds to the legendary quality of the poem, and the use of the personal pronoun "you" creates a feeling of intimacy between the speaker and the reader.

Lines 5-6:
The speaker's relationship to Annabel Lee is introduced in these lines. Her devotion to the speaker, whom we later learn (in line 39) was her husband, appears in the fact that her only thought was to "love and be loved" by the speaker. The repetition of "love"/"loved" emphasizes the relationship between the two.

Lines 7-8:
The repetition of the word "child" in line 7 establishes the youth of both characters at the time of Annabel Lee's death. It implies that their love was an innocent love, removed from the corruption that may be associated with the adult world. The repetition in line 8 of line 2 from the first stanza presents the phrase as a refrain, creating a harmonious, linking effect every time it is used in the poem.

Lines 9-12:
These lines associate the relationship between the speaker and his bride with heavenly qualities. Through repetition of the words "love" and "loved" the magnitude of their feelings develops. The suggestion that angels—"the wingéd seraphs"—envy or covet the lovers' feelings for one another elevates this relationship above any other on earth or in heaven.

Lines 13-16:
In line 13 the pronoun "this" refers to the jealousy of the angels introduced in lines 11-12, while line 14 repeats the refrain from the first two stanzas. In line 15 the speaker names the cause of Annabel Lee's death. A chilling wind emerges from the sky, and so her death is tied to heaven and the jealousy of the angels. He places the action in the "night," an appropriate time for an insidious deed to be executed by the covetous angels.

Lines 17-20:
The speaker describes Annabel Lee's funeral in these lines. Also she is further characterized; with the reference to her "high-born kinsmen," the reader discovers that she belonged to an upper-class family. The use of the formal word, "sepulchre," rather than a more common word such as "tomb," adds to this impression of the girl's birthright. The word "sepulchre" also has a more formal tone to it, suggesting the finality of the couple's relationship. This finality—the speaker's total isolation from his love—is also developed by using the words, "shut her up" and "away from me" rather than using a phrase such as "placed her there." Note that this stanza concludes with the refrain, which also lends a note of completion to the lovers' relationship. However, in the final two stanzas of the poem, the reader will learn that in spite of Annabel Lee's death, the speaker has not stopped loving her.

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Summary and Analysis: Lines 21-41