A series of lines in which certain letters--usually the first in each line--form a name or message when read in sequence.
Etymology:From the Greek, "end" + "line"
Examples and Observations:
contrivances of prose or verse
rendered so that each line
opens or closes with words in
sequence to read from
top to bottom, their
initial or final letters
constituting a word or phrase.
(Ned Halley, Dictionary of Modern English Grammar. Wordsworth, 2005)
- Acrostics as Mnemonic Devices
"Acrostic mnemonics are sentences in which the first letter of each word is the first letter of one of the things you need to remember. . . . Acrostics are especially useful for long lists of things whose names don't begin with vowels. A famous acrostic for the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto is 'My very energetic mother just served us nine pizzas,' which can be replaced by 'My very evil mother just served us newts,' should you agree with the 2006 reclassification of Pluto as a dwarf planet rather than a full-fledged one."
(Rod L. Evans, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge: The Book of Mnemonic Devices. Penguin, 2007)
- Double Acrostics
Unite and untie are the same--so say you.
Not in wedlock, I ween, has the unity been.
In the drama of marriage, each wandering gout
To a new face would fly--all except you and I
Each seeking to alter the spell in their scene."
(anonymous, "Double Acrostic")
- John Keats's Acrostic
Give me your patience, sister, while I frame
Exact in capitals your golden name;
Or sue the fair Apollo and he will
Rouse from his heavy slumber and instill
Great love in me for thee and Poesy.
Imagine not that greatest mastery
And kingdom over all the Realms of verse,
Nears more to heaven in aught, than when we nurse
And surety give to love and Brotherhood.
Anthropophagi in Othello's mood;
Ulysses storm'd and his enchanted belt
Glow with the Muse, but they are never felt
Unbosom'd so and so eternal made,
Such tender incense in their laurel shade
To all the regent sisters of the Nine
As this poor offering to you, sister mine.
Kind sister! aye, this third name says you are;
Enchanted has it been the Lord knows where;
And may it taste to you like good old wine,
Take you to real happiness and give
Sons, daughters and a home like honied hive.
(John Keats, "Georgiana Augusta Keats")
- A Biblical Acrostic
"A third key rhetorical feature in Lamentations [a book of the Hebrew Bible] is the acrostic that structures four of the five poems (Lam 1-4). . . . Several purposes have been offered to explain the use of acrostics, including fulfilling magical rites, aiding memorization of poems, emphasizing completeness, or producing aesthetically pleasing literature (Westermann, 98-100; O'Connor). Although there may be multiple purposes behind the use of acrostics, most likely they communicate that the poem expresses totality, and in the case of Lamentations both the total devastating effect of the destruction and the total expression of the pain of those who experienced it."
(Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings, ed. by Tremper Longman and Peter Enns. InterVarsity Press, 2008)