An Abecedarian (or Abecedarius) poem is a type of alphabet acrostic poem where each line or verse begins with a successive alphabet letter (a, b, c, d...and so forth) until the end of the alphabet is reached. It is arranged in alphabetical order, with the initial line beginning with the first letter of the alphabet. Each line, stanza, or verse starts with a successive letter of the alphabet and ends with the final letter. This form is sometimes known as an alphabet poem.
Poem by Eve Roper
Abecedarian poetry is not to be confused with ABC poetry, where every word starts with a subsequent letter of the alphabet. However, the terms can be used interchangeably when an Abecedarian poem only has one word per line.
The medieval author Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature, translated a French prayer using the abecedarian method to create "An ABC (The Prayer of our Lady)."
BITES OF APPLE PIES
A pple pies, that's what I want to bite.
B egging my mom: "Mommy please, please..", as I
C ome closer to her..
D ancing a little to the left and right;
E very move a way to tempt my mom
F or that sweet delicious pie..
G iving her a kiss to her lips. And
H ugs so tight.. Finally,
I ris, my mom, said yes, yes we go and buy
J umping thrice for I am happy and thrilled, I
K not my arm to my mom's.
L ovingly, not wanting any other mom.
M oving fast as we could to buy not one or two but a plentitude of pies.
N oting, how generous is my mom for I was just asking for one.
O ven-fresh, my mouth waters as I smell the apple pies.
P icking one piece,
Q uickly, I took a luscious large bite.
R ich rumble rush of savory pie
S ated my appetite.
T aunting me to take more! more!
U nder my mom's gaze, Again I eat and eat.
V ery delicious, I said to my mom
W idening my grin and giving thumbs up.
X eric is my throat, I drink and drink.
Y ummy! So yummy, that I eat four pies in a row.
Z ipper of my pants, my oh my, I hardly can close!
by Olive Eloisa Guillermo - Fraser
Contemporary examples include mnemonic devices, written for children and often using musical arrangements or songs, by authors including Dr. Seuss, Gertrude Stein, and Edward Gorey.
Origin and History
The earliest examples of Abecedarian poems are Semitic. This ancient form of poetry was often used for sacred compositions including hymns, prayers, and psalms, the earliest examples in Hebrew texts that are now part of the Bible. One of the most renowned pieces is Psalm 118 in the Hebrew Bible, consisting of 22 stanzas, each comprised of eight lines, therefore using all the Hebrew alphabet letters in turn.