In 1927, publishing house Faber & Gwyer (later Faber & Faber) published a series titled The Ariel Poems—a run of small, illustrated pamphlets that combined a poem with an artist’s illustrations. T. S. Eliot, one of the contributing poets, borrowed the title for the five poems that he wrote for the series, and those have become perhaps the most easily recognizable poems of that name. But twenty other poets and nineteen artists contributed to the series as well, creating thirty-eight beautiful pamphlets featuring the work of writers and artists such as Edith Sitwell, G. K. Chesterton, W. B. Yeats, Stephen Tennant, Albert Rutherston, and Blair Hughes-Stanton. The illustrations range from wood engravings, to drawings, to colored illustrations inside the front covers of the pamphlets. The poets’ work, newly written for the series, include overtly Christmas poems (the original focus of the pamphlet collection) but also encompass subjects including hope, life and death, nature, and the life of the soul. Several of the poets featured in the pamphlets also appear in the Burns Library’s manuscript collections: Edith Sitwell, G. K. Chesterton, W. B. Yeats, Hilaire Belloc, D. H. Lawrence, James Stephens, and AE (George William Russell). These pamphlets are an excellent starting point to access these intriguing twentieth-century poets.
In 1954, Faber & Faber published a second series of Ariel poems. This second series was shorter than the first but the concept remained the same. The 1954 pamphlets are larger–almost twice the size of the first run–but follow the same format of a brightly colored paper cover, and a single sheet of folded paper inside with two illustrations and the poem. The 1954 Ariel poems are written by W. H. Auden, Roy Campbell, Walter De La Mare, T. S. Eliot, C. Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice, Edwin Muir, and Stephen Spender. The artists include David Jones, James Sellars, and Lynton Lamb. Each poem is housed in its original envelope. The envelopes are pastel colored and titled “An Ariel Poem” followed by the pertinent information for each pamphlet.
- Rachel A. Ernst, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant & PhD student in the English Department
“The Ariel Poems.” Faber & Faber. http://www.faber.co.uk/9780571316434-the-ariel-poems.html