When I was in grammar school at St. Cassian’s, we normally had our library class once per week. We’d go to the school library and have the option of checking out a book. Searching for a book to read for a book report, I checked out Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher—because it was short! My sixth-grade mind was a little bit unsettled by what it encountered between the covers of this book. Holy moly!
In seventh grade, we read Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” which I’m pretty sure was included in our reader. Another thing about which I’m pretty sure is that much of the macabre material in this work evaded my understanding. This gave me some measure of protection from the horror in it, although I did still find it pretty scary!
One of Poe’s works that I surprisingly did not find scary was “Annabel Lee.” From fifth through eighth grade, we had a really wonderful Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Jeanne Wiegel, who skillfully built our competency in grammar in writing, encouraged our creativity, and helped us to feel confident when approaching literary classics. One of her trademarks was having our class memorize and recite together all types of poetry. One such poem was “Annabel Lee.”
When I was twelve, I was struck by the hauntingly beautiful rhythm of the poem, which mimicked the ebbing tides at the seaside where the persona waits in vigil by his beloved’s grave. However, somehow I did not notice that his doing so was rather odd! When we studied the poem, I remember that Mrs. Wiegel told us that Poe was married to his younger cousin, Virginia Clemm; I think that this fact preoccupied me, so that I did not even pay attention to the weirdness of the poem’s persona’s confession about his unusual loitering.
Anyway, I will now recite for you “Annabel Lee.” Here we go…