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“Annabel Lee” has a first-person speaker who remains deeply grieved about the death of his beloved, even though she passed away “many and many a year ago” (line 1). The evident agitation of the speaker’s mind emerges through the poem’s formal features. For example, the poem has a variable meter that mimics the constantly shifting dynamic of the speaker’s thoughts. Despite regularly alternating between four-beat and three-beat lines, each line has its own distinct metrical pattern that constantly speeds up and slows down. Additionally, the speaker frequently repeats words and phrases in obsessive ways. Almost without exception, the speaker uses a repeating rhyme scheme where the only words used for end rhymes include “me” (or “we,” in stanza 6), “sea” and “LEE.” The incantatory repetition of these words throughout the poem expresses a desire on the speaker’s part to memorialize his love for Annabel Lee, preserving it for all time.
However, the speaker isn’t content simply to say that he and Annabel Lee loved each other. Instead, he feels compelled to exaggerate their connection, claiming that even angels were jealous of their “love that was more than love” (line 8). In fact, their connection remains so profound that none in heaven or hell “Can ever dissever my soul from the soul / Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE” (lines 30–33). It isn’t clear why the speaker inflates the significance of their love so greatly. One interpretation might be that he feels a subconscious need to convince himself of the reality of their romance, which flourished so long ago. Another interpretation might be that his exaggeration reflects an agitated mental state. This latter interpretation could help explain the suicidal undertone of the poem’s final stanza. There, the speaker ceases to use “me” as one of the key end-rhyme words, as if removing himself from the poem. He also describes himself crawling into his beloved’s seaside tomb and staying there for “all the night tide” (line 38). He remains so distraught by Annabel Lee’s death that he wishes to share “her tomb by the sounding sea” (line 41)—possibly forever.