Annabel Lee, Edgar Alan Poe - LELE - Terminale L

Annabel Lee, Edgar Alan Poe - LELE - Terminale L

Digischool vous propose un cours rédigé par notre professeur de Littérature étrangère et langue étrangère de niveau Bac L sur Annabel Lee d'Edgar Allan Poe.

Dans ce cours de Littérature étrangère et langue étrangère en anglais, notre profeseur vous présentera une légère introduction du contexte historique dans lequel a évolué l'auteur et dans lequel a été écrit ce poème. Ensuite, nous vous présenterons une rapide biographie de l'auteur ainsi que le poème "Annabel Lee" et l'analyse (en français) que l'on en fait. Puis vous étudierez la forme du poème et la relation coexistante entre la poésie et le gothique. Pour finir, notre professeur vous démontre l'obsession du poète pour Annabel Lee et la clé du travail des poètes.

Téléchargez gratuitement ce cours de LELE ci-dessous.

Annabel Lee, Edgar Alan Poe - LELE - Terminale L

Le contenu du document

 

JEUX DE L’AMOUR EN POÉSIE - Edgar Alan Poe, “Annabel Lee”

I. Introduction

Edgar Allan Poe is the master of crime, horror and the Gothic in American literature. His works, in the first half of the 19th century, brought these important genres in European literature in the United States. He wrote mainly poetry and short stories, such as the famous “Murders in the Rue Morgue”.

In the 19th century, fantastic and mystery stories were very popular, and Poe’s stories became famous for that style. His poem “Annabel Lee”, published posthumously in 1849, follows the traditional theme of love in poetry. It plays on the imagination, the fairytale tradition and a musical rhythm, as the poet tells a story about his love for Annabel Lee.

The main focus of the poem is love after the death of the lover, and the feelings of the poet who has to deal with the loss. At first glance an innocent tribute to his loved one, the poem turns into a worrying psychological account of lost love. Poe, in his typical Gothic style, adds in twists that make readers more and more uneasy as they read. This hypnotic tale is one of Poe's most famous poems, a great testimony of his style of writing and the horror/fantastic genre he brought to American literature.

II. A short biography of the author

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is a major American author, poet, and editor of the 19th century. He was born in Boston, and adopted at a young age by John and Frances Allan, and lived in Virginia. Poe started writing when he was a teenager. In 1826, he went to university but money issues led him to gambling and left him in debt. As a consequence, he had to leave university and spent some years moving to different cities and living in poverty. He published his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems, in 1827 in Boston.

In the 1830s, Poe went to live with his aunt and his young cousin Virginia. His relationship with her developed and he married her in 1836. She was only 13 at the time, while he was 27. Virginia became his muse and an important inspiration in his writing, but she died of tuberculosis some years later, at a young age. Thus, Poe’s personal life has always been curious and subject to multiple legends.

Poe quickly turned to writing full-time, but never managed to properly make a living from it. His main activity was that of critic, as he wrote reviews in magazines. He also published some of his own works in magazines, which was a popular way for writer to share their work with the public in the 19th century.

He introduced the Gothic and horror genre to American literature, which was quite popular in England at the same time. He also started the detective stories tradition, with his short story « The Murders in the Rue Morgue », considered to be the first detective story and published in 1841. At the time, detective novels were not yet a genre in itself, and Poe was one of the first authors to write that type of stories.

In 1845, he published his poem « The Raven », which became popular very quickly. It was a poem about loss and death, in which the narrator shares about the passing of his lover. « The Raven » was much talked of and became the most iconic of his works during his lifetime.

He died in 1849 at the young age of 40, in mysterious circumstances. Since the death of his wife Virginia in 1847, Poe had lived in distress, poverty and faced problems with alcohol. On his way to Philadelphia at the end of September 1849, he disappeared for a week, and was found days later in Baltimore, in a state of suffering. Taken to the hospital, he died there but the exact cause of his death remains a mystery.

After his death, Poe's reputation was damaged by some authors because of his harsh critics and mysterious life. However, he was to become, and still is today, one of the most famous American writers. He started a tradition of horror and mystery literature that inspired many authors after him, and which still fascinates readers today.

Cours LELE Edgar Allan Poe - Bac L

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

III. Poem and summary (in French)

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.


Le poète commence comme un conte de fées, avec une phrase typique du genre, dans l'idée du “Il était une fois”. Cela plonge directement le lecteur dans une histoire imaginaire, détachée du réel, et qui s'annonce comme une histoire dont le poète est le narrateur. Les mentions “a kingdom by the sea” et “maiden” renforcent l'imaginaire de conte, qui s'installe dès le début du poème.

Dès la fin de la première strophe, le nom de la femme aimée est donné, et le poète établit leur histoire d'amour. Le poète n'est jamais nommé dans le texte, et il met l'accent sur Annabel Lee en répétant son nom à chaque strophe.

Dans la seconde strophe, le poète décrit l'amour que l'un et l'autre se portaient. Il se compare Annabel Lee et lui à des enfants, ce qui évoque un amour innocent, pur, et encore une fois rattaché à l'esprit de conte. Les troisièmes et quatrièmes strophes annoncent la mort d'Annabel Lee, vraisemblablement à cause d'une maladie causée par le vent (“wind”, “chilling”). “Angels”, dans ces deux strophes, fait état d'une décision du destin impossible à contrôler, d'un événement auquel le poète et sa bien-aimée ne peuvent échapper. Elle est arrachée à lui, comme l'indique le vers “bore her away from me” dans la deuxième strophe.

Enfin, le poète concentre les dernières strophes sur l'amour inconditionnel qu'Annabel Lee et lui se portent, et du lien puissant qui les unit (“the demons down under the sea/Can ever dissever my soul from the soul/Of the beautiful Annabel Lee”, strophe cinq). Encore une fois, le poète fait état d'un amour pur, presque transcendant, qui n'est pas atteint par la séparation physique de la mort. Avec les anges, Poe mentionne les démons, faisant référence à un imaginaire magique, voire religieux – même si les démons sont ici sous la mer, et non en Enfer, il évoque tout de même le Paradis (“Heaven”) dans cette même strophe.

La dernière image du poème est celle de la tombe d'Annabel Lee, “sepulchre” est utilisé pour la désigner tout au long du poème et il s'agit d'un terme rattaché au vocabulaire religieux. Le poète déclare passer toutes ses nuits près du corps de sa bien-aimée, ce qui créé une chute très obscure et inquiétante au poème. Les derniers mots du poème, “sounding sea”, laissent le lecteur sur une image de la nature, la mer bruyante. Cette image est typiquement gothique : la nature et la vision sombre de la tombe de la jeune femme créent cette atmosphère typique aux récits gothiques et fantastiques.

IV. The form of the poem

The poem is made off six stanzas, with an irregular number of lines in each stanza. These irregular verses give a peculiar rhythm to the poem, which almost sounds like a children's song, with the repetition of “in this kingdom by the sea” appearing as a chorus. The punctuation, as Poe uses a lot of comas, adds to the mechanical rhythm, that comes and goes like waves in the sea. That “wave-effect” gives its almost hypnotic rhythm to the poem. “Annabel Lee” is also repeated seven times throughout the poem, as a way of always coming back to the main object of it. Her presence always looms on the poem like a shadow, as if she were still here even though she is dead.

Poe uses the different lengths of the lines to create specific effects. Generally, he alternates long and short lines, but for example the two short lines in a row “Of those who were older than we - / Of many far wiser than we -” are two octosyllables that break the long/short pattern. That way, he creates a change in rhythm, accelerating it in these two lines.

The way one can read the poem emphasises its ghostly atmopshere: not only is the story leaning on the Gothic genre, but the sound and arrangement on the words and lines adds even more to that dark atmosphere. It shows how Poe has worked carefully on the rhythm and rhymes of his poem, to make it sound just as disturbing as the story suggests. Thus, the form of a poem is always very important and has to be studied hand-in-hand with the actual text.

V. A dark fairytale: when love poetry meets the Gothic

Even though this poem is about love, it is far from the traditional, pastoral romances poets from the previous centuries have been writing. This type of love poetry is a break from the sonnet tradition, which is arguably the most popular form of love poetry. Here, Poe shares about an unconditional love, but adds Gothic elements and feelings to balance the pure love he is describing, making it appear unhealthy and disturbed.

Poe uses the imagery of fairytales and confronts it to the horror of death and sadness, twisting this traditional theme. Of course, the first line “it was many and many a year ago” immediately sets the poem in a tale context, and this is emphasised in the next lines by vocabulary such as “kingdom” and “maiden”. Poe describes the lovers as children, because childhood was seen, especially in the early 19th century with Romanticism, as the purest time of life, where emotions were pure and genuine. Thus, childhood love is the most beautiful and innocent kind of love, that the poet uses to describe his feelings for Annabel Lee. The first twist on this imagery comes with the angels: they are depicted as jealous and responsible for the death of Annabel Lee, whereas angels, in biblical and traditional imagery, are positive and good creatures. Here, they have envy, one of the seven deadly sins: “coveted her and me” (l.12), “envying her and me” (l.22). Moreover, the angels are paired with the demons in stanza five. The images of good and evil are intertwined, and all along the poem Poe introduces positive elements, like love and the beauty of Annabel Lee, to darker elements such as death, the tomb and the demons.

The setting of the poem goes from a fairytale kingdom to a threatening place ruled by nature. The scene is set around the sea, with “sea” being repeted many times throughout the text. The poem is enclosed around the sea and the wave-like rhythm, as the tomb of Annabel Lee is surrounded by water. The scenery is typical of Gothic fiction, where nature is used to set a disturbing atmosphere.

VI. The poet's obsession with Annabel Lee

Even though the poet describes pure, innocent childhood love, his words almost shows an obsession with Annabel Lee. First of all, the poet is never named, and nothing is said about him at all. The whole focus of the text is on Annabel Lee, whose name is repeated very often, as if it was part of a chorus. The image of the girl is omnipresent in the poem, just as the image of the sea that comes back all along as well. However, there is no precise description of Annabel Lee; the reader knows nothing about her, about how she looks. It is her pure presence that is felt throughout the poem, like a mysterious ghost.

The repetitions of “love” in line 6, 9 and 27 insist on the affection shared by the two lovers, making it almost an obsessive, unhealthy feeling. Nothing in the world seems to exist apart from them and their love, making it an over-the-top feeling. Furthermore, the poet, in the last stanza, describes his visions of Annabel Lee. He sees her in nature, in the “moon” and “stars” (l. 34 and 36). His mind is filled with images of her, which suggests a real fixation on her, a love too strong and almost disturbing. This is emphasised in the last lines of the poem, where the poet reveals that he sleeps every night next to her dead body in her tomb. The poet ends on a dramatic, gloomy note, the Gothic highlight of the whole text with, in the last two lines, an emphasis on “sepulchre” and “tomb” and a repetition of “sea” - the reader ends the poem with the scary landscape of the wild sea and the tomb of Annabel Lee.

By the end of the poem, we can notice that the love that is described is far from being a simple childhood love – it is a deep, obsessive feeling that the narrator holds for the young girl, and he is haunted by her image and by his feeling even after her death. In a way, the poet is halfway dead with her, as he spends all his nights in the tomb with her.

VII. The death of the lover: a key theme in Poe's works

There are some recurrent themes in Poe's literature, and the death of the narrator's young, beautiful partner is one of them. It also appears in his famous short story “Ligeia”, where the narrator faces the loss of his beloved wife and mourns her beauty and sweetness of character. After her death, he remarries and, his mind completely absorbed by the memory of the dead Ligeia, he starts seeing her everywhere, in sort of hallucinations and visions of his spirit.

It is often said that these sad lovers stories were inspired by Poe's own life and muse, the young Virginia, whom he married when she was still in her teenage years and who died from tuberculosis in her early twenties. Even though their relationship raises questions and concerns, Poe is known for the love he bore her. When she died, he was deeply affected and this reflected in his works afterwards.

In “Annabel Lee” this is clearly noticeable, as love is submerged by the image of death and darkness. It is thus safe to assume that Poe was influenced by his personal life in his writings, and that he expressed his sorrow in texts such as this.

 

Useful words:

  • gambling : parier, jeux d'argent
  • coma : tiret
  • genuine : véritable, authentique
  • seven deadly sins : les sept péchés capitaux
  • intertwined : entremêlé
  • to loom on something : planer sur
Fin de l'extrait

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