Ariel Poems

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Illustration for the poem Troy by artist Charles S. Ricketts, poem by Humbert Wolfe, PR 1225 .A7 no. 12 ARIEL, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

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.

<a href=";vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21345828030001021"><i>Nativity</i></a> by Roy Campbell, illustrated by James Sellars, PR 9369.3 .C35 N38 1954 General Folders, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Nativity by Roy Campbell, illustrated by James Sellars, PR 9369.3 .C35 N38 1954 General Folders, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

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.

If you would like to look at the Ariel poems in person, visit the Burns Library Reading Room. For more information, contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or

  • Rachel A. Ernst, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant & PhD student in the English Department

Works Consulted

“The Ariel Poems.” Faber & Faber.

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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One Response to Ariel Poems

  1. Paul Connolly says:

    Dear Burns Library Staff Members and Researchers,

    These blog posts are interesting and fun. Please keep up the good work of informing alumni and others about your valued resources.

    Paul Connolly ’70

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