Annabel Lee

I thought tonight I would dedicate this post to my wife.  Things have been really hard for us the past couple years and the past few months have felt especially difficult and I thought what better way to take a breather from all the troubles and worries then to delve into some poetry.  BTW before I get started if you haven’t already visited her site it is http://shanson3871.wordpress.com/ so check it out.  Anyway one of her favorite authors is Edgar Allan Poe and her favorite poem is Annabel Lee.  So before I post the poem I thought I would tell you a little about this dark figure called Edgar Allan Poe.

He was born Edgar Poe in Boston, Massachusetts, on 19 Jan 1809, the 2nd child of English-born actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and actor David Poe Jr.  He had an elder brother, William Henry Leonard Poe and a younger sister, Rosalie Poe.  His father abandoned them in 1810 and his mother died a year later from consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis).  Poe was then taken into the home of John Allan, a successful Scottish merchant in Richmond, Virginia who dealt in tobacco, cloth, wheat, tombstones, and slaves.  They served as a foster family and gave him the name “Edgar Allan Poe”, though they never formally adopted him.

In March 1825, his uncle, one of the wealthiest men in Richmond, died and left several acres of real estate to Poe.  It was estimated at $750,000.  By summer he bought a 2-story brick home and was engaged to Sarah Elmira Royster before registering at the 1 yr old University of Virginia to study languages.  During his time there, Poe lost touch with Royster and also became estranged from his foster father over gambling debts.  Poe claimed that Allan had not given him sufficient money to register for classes, purchase texts, and procure and furnish a dormitory.  Allan did send additional money and clothes, but Poe’s debts increased.  Poe gave up on the university after a year, and, not feeling welcome in Richmond, especially when he learned that his sweetheart Royster had married Alexander Shelton, he traveled to Boston in April 1827, sustaining himself with odd jobs as a clerk and newspaper writer.  At some point he started using the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet.

Unable to support himself he enlisted in the army as Edgar A. Perry and said he was 22.  That same year, he released his first book, a 40-page collection of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems, attributed with the byline “by a Bostonian”.  Only 50 copies were printed, and the book received virtually no attention.  He was there for 5 years then got out after his foster mother died and went to West Point under his real name.  Meanwhile, Poe published his second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, in Baltimore in 1829.  After Allan married his second wife, there were a lot of arguments over children born out of affairs and they later disowned him.  Poe decided to leave West Point by purposely getting court-martialed.  On February 8, 1831, he was tried for gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders for refusing to attend formations, classes, or church.  Poe tactically pled not guilty to induce dismissal, knowing he would be found guilty.

He left for New York in February 1831, and released a third volume of poems, simply titled Poems.  The book was financed with help from his fellow cadets at West Point, many of whom donated 75 cents to the cause, raising a total of $170. They may have been expecting verses similar to the satirical ones Poe had been writing about commanding officers.  Printed by Elam Bliss of New York, it was labeled as “Second Edition” and included a page saying, “To the U.S. Corps of Cadets this volume is respectfully dedicated.”  The book once again reprinted the long poems “Tamerlane” and “Al Aaraaf” but also six previously unpublished poems including early versions of “To Helen”, “Israfel”, and “The City in the Sea”.  He returned to Baltimore, to his aunt, brother and cousin, in March 1831.  His elder brother Henry, who had been in ill health in part due to problems with alcoholism, died on August 1, 1831.

After publishing many books and poems, in June 1840, Poe published a prospectus announcing his intentions to start his own journal, The Stylus.  Originally, Poe intended to call the journal The Penn, as it would have been based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In the June 6, 1840 issue of Philadelphia’s Saturday Evening Post, Poe bought advertising space for his prospectus: “Prospectus of the Penn Magazine, a Monthly Literary journal to be edited and published in the city of Philadelphia by Edgar A. Poe.”  The journal was never produced before Poe’s death.  Around this time, he attempted to secure a position with the Tyler administration, claiming he was a member of the Whig Party.  He hoped to be appointed to the Custom House in Philadelphia with help from President Tyler’s son Robert, an acquaintance of Poe’s friend Frederick Thomas.  Poe failed to show up for a meeting with Thomas to discuss the appointment in mid-September 1842, claiming to be sick, though Thomas believed he was drunk.  Though he was promised an appointment, all positions were filled by others.

One evening in January 1842, Virginia, his second wife showed the first signs of consumption, now known as tuberculosis, while singing and playing the piano. Poe described it as breaking a blood vessel in her throat.  She only partially recovered. Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of Virginia’s illness.  On January 29, 1845, his poem “The Raven” appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation.  Though it made Poe a household name almost instantly, he was paid only $9 for its publication.  It was concurrently published in The American Review:  A Whig Journal under the pseudonym “Quarles”

Virginia died there on January 30, 1847.  Biographers and critics often suggest Poe’s frequent theme of the “death of a beautiful woman” stems from the repeated loss of women throughout his life, including his wife.  Increasingly unstable after his wife’s death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island.  Their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe’s drinking and erratic behavior.  However, there is also strong evidence that Whitman’s mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship.  Poe then returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster.

The death of Edgar Allan Poe on October 7, 1849, has remained mysterious: the circumstances leading up to it are uncertain and the cause of death is disputed.  On October 3, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, “in great distress, and … in need of immediate assistance”, according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker.  He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died at 5 a.m. on Sunday, October 7.  Poe was never coherent enough to explain how he came to be in this condition.

Much of the extant information about the last few days of Poe’s life comes from his attending physician, Dr. John Joseph Moran, though his credibility is questionable. Poe was buried after a small funeral at the back of Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, but his remains were moved to a new grave with a larger monument in 1875.  The newer monument also marks the burial place of Poe’s wife, Virginia, and his mother-in-law, Maria.  Theories as to what caused Poe’s death include suicide, murder, cholera, rabies, syphilis, influenza, and that Poe was a victim of cooping. Evidence of the influence of alcohol is strongly disputed.  All medical records and documents, including Poe’s death certificate, have been lost, if they ever existed.

After Poe’s death, Rufus Wilmot Griswold wrote his obituary under the pseudonym “Ludwig”. Griswold, who became the literary executor of Poe’s estate, was actually a rival of Poe and later published his first full biography, depicting him as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman.  Much of the evidence for this image of Poe is believed to have been forged by Griswold, and though friends of Poe denounced it, this interpretation had lasting impact.

Now that the history lesson is done, lets get on with the poem.  This is dedicated to my wife, I love you and I’m sorry things are so hard but I know it won’t be this way forever.

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

 It was many and many a year ago,
          In a kingdom by the sea,
    That a maiden there lived whom you may know
          By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
    And this maiden she lived with no other thought
          Than to love and be loved by me.

    I was a child and she was a child,
          In this kingdom by the sea;
    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.

    And this was the reason that, long ago,
          In this kingdom by the sea,
    A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
          My beautiful Annabel Lee;
    So that her highborn kinsman came
          And bore her away from me,
    To shut her up in a sepulchre
          In this kingdom by the sea.

    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.

    But our love it was stronger by far than the love
          Of those who were older than we-
          Of many far wiser than we-
    And neither the angels in heaven above,
          Nor the demons down under the sea,
    Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
          Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

    For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
          Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
    And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
          Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
    And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
    Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
          In the sepulchre there by the sea,
          In her tomb by the sounding sea.
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