The Legend of Edgar Allan Poe and a love in Charleston left unfulfilled – Annabel Lee

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Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allan Poe was the last complete poem ever published of Poe, two days after his death in 1849. The beauty and elegance of the poem, with its theme of eternal love, reaches deep into the depths of Charleston folklore. Delving into the mystique of the supernatural, the romanticism of the city and the love affair between a rich young girl and the orator/soldier who was swept away by her beauty and intelligence, this is a tale that needs to be shared from generation to generation.

Poem: Annabel Lee
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Published: October 9, 1849
Poe Death: October 7, 1849

Annabel Lee

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 wingèd 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 kinsmen 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 her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

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Charleston history tells the story a little like this:

In Charleston, South Carolina it is said that people visiting the Unitarian Cemetery sometimes see a young woman’s ghost. She seems to be roaming the cemetery looking for somebody. Her name is or should I say was, Annabel Lee.

The story starts before the Civil War. A sailor from Virginia was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina and met a local Charleston girl named Annabel Lee. The meeting quickly developed into love. The two would meet constantly and could not be kept from each other. Not that no one tried. Annabel’s father strongly disapproved of this relationship. He forbade Annabel to see the sailor anymore. This didn’t stop them though. Annabel would meet the sailor clandestinely in the privacy of the secluded Unitarian cemetery. This worked for several months, but Annabel’s father must have gotten suspicious. One day he followed her and caught her meeting with the sailor. He was enraged and determined to put an end to this relationship. He locked Annabel in her room for several months, forbidding her to leave the house and making a meeting with the sailor impossible.

During this time, the Navy transferred the sailor back to his home in Virginia, and the two were doomed to never meet again. Annabel was heartbroken and deeply depressed knowing that she would never be able to see the one she loved so much again. While home in Virginia, the sailor received news that his beloved Annabel had died of Yellow Fever. The heartbroken sailor quickly returned to Charleston to the graveside of his beloved Annabel. Annabel’s father, ever spiteful of this relationship, decided to keep them apart as he did when she was alive. He devised a plan so the sailor would never know which grave was Annabel’s.

He had Annabel’s grave at the family plot dug to the depth of 6 feet. He then had all the other graves in the family plot dug to 3 feet. This would be just enough to not disturb the graves but enough to make them all look freshly dug. When the sailor arrived, he went to the cemetery as he would continue to do every day, and sit for hours. He sat by the family plot in the Unitarian Cemetery to grieve her death, never knowing exactly which grave was Annabel’s. He would come and remember how they so joyfully used to meet in the same cemetery by the same plot. Now he sat alone weeping.

There is no record of what ever became of the sailor. It’s a different story with Annabel. Some people think they know the story of Annabel Lee, but others say they know the whole story. To this day, people claim to have seen Annabel Lee searching the cemetery for her lost love of long ago. Perhaps this is because of the strong love she had and the abrupt ending of the relationship, never being able to properly say good bye. Her ghost appears to still be looking for her sailor.

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There are some that say that the poem, Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allen Poe was based on this incident. “The kingdom by the sea” being Charleston. Poe did spend some time in Charleston; however, most scholars believe that the poem is about Poe’s wife.

*Courtesy of http://www.chuckstraub.com/Letterboxing/annabellee.htm

Whether you believe the story is based on information passed down to Poe, a tribute to his wife or a true unconditional love between a young 14 year old daughter of a wealthy family and a soldier in Charleston, SC that will for all eternity go unfulfilled, it is a beautiful and timeless poem. Next time you enter the Unitarian Cemetery at 4 Archdale Street, you may be in the presence of young Anna Ravenel, a girl whose yearning for love was left incomplete.

Reference links:

http://scaresandhauntsofcharleston.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/anna-ravenel-and-the-unitarian-church-graveyard/

http://www.gothichorrorstories.com/classic-gothic-ghost-stories/poe-in-charleston-and-the-legend-of-annabel-lee/

http://www.graveaddiction.com/unitarch.html” title=”http://www.graveaddiction.com/unitarch.html

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Categories: Annabel Lee, Charleston, Edgar Allan Poe, Ghosts, Love, military, poetry, Sullivan's Island, Unitarian Church | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Legend of Edgar Allan Poe and a love in Charleston left unfulfilled – Annabel Lee

  1. Reblogged this on Recruiterpoet Blog and commented:
    The legend, the poem and the theme of eternal love loudly in this piece.

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