Poetry Knowledge Zone > Class 13
|The origin of acrostics is not clearly stated anywhere. It is said that ACROSTICS were used by ancient religious cults to identify themselves to one another in secret. It is shrouded in religion and each religion lays claim to using acrostics first. I think it is safe to merely say that acrostics have been around for a while.
Acrostic was defined as a short verse composition, so constructed that the initial letters of the lines, taken consecutively, form words.
The fancy for writing acrostics is of great antiquity, having been common among the Greeks of the Alexandrine period, as well as with the Latin writers since Ennius and Plautus, many of the arguments of whose plays were written with acrostics on their respective titles. One of the most remarkable acrostics was contained in the verses cited by Lactantius and Eusebius in the 4th century, and attributed to the Erythraean sibyl, the initial letters of which form the words 'Iricrovs Xpioros 9eoO wos crconvp: "Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour." The initials of the shorter form of this again make up the word ix^us (fish), to which a mystical meaning has been attached (Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 18, 23), thus constituting another kind of acrostic. The monks of the middle ages, who wrote in Latin, were fond of acrostics, as well as the poets of the Middle High German period, notably Gottfried of Strassburg and Rudolph of Ems.
The great poets of the Italian renaissance, among them Boccaccio, indulged in them, as did also the early Slavic writers. Sir John Davies (1569-1626) wrote twenty-six elegant Hymns to Astraea, each an acrostic on " Elisabetha Regina "; and Mistress Mary Fage, in Fame's Roule, 1637, commemorated 420 celebrities of her time in acrostic verses. The same trick of composition is often to be met with in the writings of more recent versifiers. Sometimes the lines are so combined that the final letters as well as the initials are significant. Edgar Allan Poe worked two names one of them that of Frances Sargent Osgoodinto verses in such a way that the letters of the names corresponded to the first letter of the first line, the second letter of the second, the third letter of the third, and so on.
Acrostics are a very simple form to learn to write and lot of fun with it too. I am sure many of you have dabbled in acrostics at one time or the other. The simplest way to start would be starting with your name. Write the letters in your name in a vertical line
Now think of various words that begin with these letters which suit you well. IT is as simple as that
S - Sensible
M - Muddled
I - Intelligent (?)
T - Trustworthy
H ' Happy J
A - Adamant, Argumentative
Oh I am sure my mother can supply a whole list of words!
See its simple. As a child I used to love to make up acrostics to madden or irritate people. I came up with this one for SMART when my brother used to call himself that
S - Stupid
M ' Men
A - Analyzing
R - Rubbish
T ' Topics
Acrostics on many words are a popular way to have a good laugh at party time and I love to make up acrostics to pass the time. I pick any word and write an acrostic on it. It gets addicting after a while. I like to pick even a whole sentence that makes a statement and write an acrostic out of it.
Acrostic verse has always been held in slight estimation from a literary standpoint. Dr Samuel Butler says, in his "Character of a Small Poet," " He uses to lay the outsides of his verses even, like a bricklayer, by a line of rhyme and acrostic, and fill the middle with rubbish." Addison (Spectator, No. 60) found it impossible to decide whether the inventor of the anagram or the acrostic were the greater blockhead; and, in describing the latter, says, " I have seen some of them where the verses have not only been edged by a name at each extremity, but have had the same name running down like a seam through the middle of the poem." And Dryden, in Mac Flecknoe, scornfully assigned Shadwell the rule of some peaceful province in acrostic land.
At one period much religious verse was written in a form imitative of this alphabetical method, possibly as an aid to the memory. The term acrostic is also applied to the formation of words from the initial letters of other words. "Cabal," which, though it Was in use before, with a similar meaning, has, from the time of Charles II., been associated with a particular ministry, from the accident of its being composed of Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington and Lauderdale. Akin to this are the names by which the Jews designated their Rabbis; thus Rabbi Moses ben Maimou (better known as Maimonides) was styled "Rambam," from the initials R.M.B.M.; Rabbi David Kimchi (R.D.K.), " Radak," &c.
How to Write an Acrostic Poem?
An acrostic poem is a way to show what you know about the subject you are writing about. It can be anything from an apple to Aishwarya Rai. You might not think of it as poetry because it doesn't rhyme, but poetry doesn't always have to rhyme. Before you begin,make a list of all the things you know about the character: his or her likes, dislikes, abilities, fears, and so on. An acrostic poem is one where you choose a word or name (like the name of a character in a book) and use each letter in the name as the beginning of a word or line that tells something about that person or character.
Let's say indianest
I - Influencing the minds of
N - New generation of people
D - Destined to lead the world
I - into a new world
A - And
N - Negotiate life's
E - Eternal puzzle and twists
S - Satisfying the quest for
T - Truth
Not a great one but the best I could come up on the spur of the moment. Acrostic may or may not rhyme. Rhyming and meter don't form part of the form of acrostic but both many be used to facilitate easy reading and complicate the form a little more to add challenge to the writer.
Simply writing an acrostic forming words that begin with the required letter are a good start but don't make excellent reading. As you get more and more comfortable within the form, start telling a story within the confines of the form, incorporate a little humor. The first example of acrostic I provided using my name is where you start but it is dry boring and not likely to win any praises. You can find a huge wealth of acrostics in the internet, read them to get an idea of the magic you can create with acrostics. Come on try it, it is simple and can be practiced on that train or bus ride to work when we don't have anything better to do than look out the window. It also reeves up your mind for the day ahead.
Double acrostic most probably developed from the acrostic and is the forefather of the modern day crossword puzzles. Double and triple acrostics occupy an important niche in the history of word puzzles, for it is generally recognized that they were the predecessors to the crossword puzzle. For those unfamiliar with the genre, a double acrostic consists of clues for a sequence of words (the cross-lights) to be written in a list, plus two clues to the words spelled out by the first and last letters of the cross-lights (the uprights). In a triple acrostic a third upright is formed out of interior letters in the cross-lights. The cross-lights may consist of words of varying lengths, but the uprights are obviously constrained to have exactly as many letters as there are cross-lights.
Probably invented in the 1850's, the double acrostic was a fad in the latter part of the 19th century. Queen Victoria was believed to be very fond of the double acrostic which, by this time, had evolved from a verse-form into a type of puzzle. This acrostic was supposedly written by her royal hand:
A city in Italy
A river in Germany
A town in the United States
A town in North America
A town in Holland
The Turkish name of Constantinople
A town in Bothnia
A city in Greece
A circle on the globe
The first letters spell out the name of a well-known English city (NEWCASTLE) while the last letters, when read upwards, name what the city is famous for (COAL MINES).
The acrostic craze continued well into the 20th century. A typical example of these puzzles is this one published in the 1930's when movies and actors were all the rage.
Here you may see, despite the veil of haze,
A heavenly body with most moving ways.
1. A bustle that surrounds both you and me.
2. This is not lawful; still may sometimes be.
3. A priest or beast-if an odd spelling's found.
4. The dregs of vinegar maternal sound.
The solution is:
A comparative rarity, the triple acrostic appeared occasionally in puzzle books, almanacs and children's magazines until the mid-20th century at which time, it seems to have faded from view. Here's an example from The Second Penguin Problem Book published in 1944.
Left, middle and right
Give us a choice of light
1. Kind of glance which he's who's lost his heart
Bestows on her who wears the latter part.
2. Here is one with a gun.
3. This is bound to go round.
4. Simplify taste and eliminate waste.
My meaning is made plain by my saying it again.
The solution is:
(AMBER, RED OR GREEN)
Later on these two forms were eclipsed by the crossword and rapidly faded from the scene and became extinct.
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