Annabel Lee was Poe’s last poem. Legends abound that it’s based on a story from Charleston, South Carolina, but that’s unlikely. In reality he wrote it about his wife, recently deceased.
It’s the story of a man haunted by love, and follows love into the grave. It’s an exploration of obsessive love, doomed love that keep the mind busy for some time, working it out for ourselves.
Holding onto your love after the death, literal or metaphoric of the one you love, is a romantic notion. It’s one we hold true in the beginning of relationships, and perhaps we never really think of the lessons of Annabel Lee till we’re forced to. Annabel Lee suffered physical death, but any permanent separation to the one left behind is a kind of death as well. One doesn’t have to be a widow or widower to identify with the longing and loss found in Annabel Lee.
Nor does one have to experience or even long to experience the implied necrophilia of Poe’s Annabel Lee. But who amongst haven’t longed to hold in our arms one long and forever lost to us, and remember a time when we believed that even death could never break our love.
Poe did return to the pursuit, for he did love beautiful women, but perhaps his last poem shone a light into his heart, which said his heart really wasn’t into it. But instead lie at night with his bride, in that sepulcher by the sea.