Sarah Jarosz is set to play the Cistern tonight, bringing with her rootsy songs from her latest album, Follow Me Down. One tune in particular should resonate with local audiences: “Annabelle Lee” is the singer’s interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s last published poem about young, doomed lovers in a kingdom by the sea.
Some say that Poe, who served a brief stint at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, was inspired by a Lowcountry tale. Legend has it that a young soldier fell in love with a girl named Annabel Lee. For several months they were inseparable, despite her father’s disapproval, but when the man was shipped out of Charleston, Annabel died of Yellow Fever. He returned to say his goodbyes, but the girl’s father wouldn’t allow him into the funeral. Some say Annabel’s ghost still haunts the Unitarian Cemetery, where she was buried.
Granted, there’s no real proof that Poe had ever heard the legend, and some argue the poem was based on his relationship with his own wife. It went on to inspire Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, which was originally going to be titled The Kingdom by the Sea.
Wherever the chain of inspiration came from, it will be interesting to hear Jarosz perform her fresh interpretation of the haunting poem just a few blocks away from where Annabel’s ghost is said to reside. If you’d like to pay your respects to Annabel, the cemetery is located at 4 Archdale St.