Acrostic  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Google
Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Wiki Commons
Wikisource
YouTube
Shop


Featured:
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Enlarge
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

An acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message. As a form of constrained writing, an acrostic can be used as a mnemonic device to aid memory retrieval. A famous acrostic was made in Greek for the acclamation JESUS CHRIST, GOD'S SON, SAVIOUR (Template:Lang-gr; Iesous CHristos, THeou Yios, Soterch and th being each one letter in Greek). The initials spell ICHTHYS (ΙΧΘΥΣ), Greek for fish – hence the frequent use of the fish as a symbol for Jesus Christ from the early days of Christianity to the present time.

Combining the late Greek ákros ("top"), and stíchos, ("verse") formed akróstichis, the origin of the English word acrostic.

Overview

Relatively simple acrostics may merely spell out the letters of the alphabet in order. These acrostics occur in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, Proverbs 31, 10-31, and in Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145 of the Hebrew Bible.

Notable among the acrostic Psalms are the long Psalm 119, which typically is printed in subsections named after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each of which is featured in that section; and Psalm 145, which is recited three times a day in the Jewish services.

Often the ease of detectability of an acrostic can depend on the intention of its creator. In some cases an author may desire an acrostic to have a better chance of being perceived by an observant reader, such as the acrostic contained in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (where the key capital letters are decorated with ornate embellishments), or as in the poem To Doctor Empiric (by Ben Jonson) which is a verse outlined after the word W-O-L-F giving emphasis to, and capitalizing the key letters so such acrostic is relatively easier to discern. However, acrostics may also be used as a form of steganography, where the author seeks to conceal the message rather than proclaim it. This might be achieved by making the key letters uniform in appearance with the surrounding text, or by aligning the words in such a way that the relationship between the key letters is less obvious. This is referred to as null ciphers in steganography, using the first letter of each word to form a hidden message in an otherwise innocuous text. Using letters to hide a message, as in acrostic ciphers, was popular during the Renaissance, and could employ various different methods of enciphering, such as selecting other letters than initials based on a repeating pattern (equidistant letter sequences), or even concealing the message by starting at the end of the text and working backwards.

Examples

Secreted in the Dutch national anthem Het Wilhelmus(The William) is also an acrostic: the first letters of its fifteen stanzas spell WILLEM VAN NASSOV. This was one of the hereditary titles of William of Orange (William the Silent), who introduces himself in the poem to the Dutch people.

There is a classic example of acrostic poem in English written by Edgar Allan Poe is entitled simply "An Acrostic":

<poem style="margin-left: 2em"> Elizabeth it is in vain you say "Love not" — thou sayest it in so sweet a way: In vain those words from thee or L.E.L. Zantippe's talents had enforced so well: Ah! if that language from thy heart arise, Breath it less gently forth — and veil thine eyes. Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried To cure his love — was cured of all beside — His follie — pride — and passion — for he died. </poem>


See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Acrostic" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools