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I asked Christian musician Stuart Townend last year at a song-writing seminar in Sydney about the possibility of constructing a song in the form of an acrostic, (where each line starts with successive letters of the alphabet.) There are of course a number of songs in the Bible written this way, like Psalm 25, and Proverbs 31, and spectacularly Psalm 119. Stuart recognised the form, but made no promise that he would try.
I actually wonder if it can be done. I have no doubt that something suitable for use in children’s ministry could be constructed, but I wonder if something for adult fare could be put together, without defaulting to a line about Christmas when the letter ‘x’ is reached, nor introducing a musical instruction about a xylophone solo. Maybe it would be too distracting, which of course would defeat the purpose of the song, where the form is more prominent than the substance. There is an old adage in Christian circles along the lines that you can’t, at the same time, show that you are clever and that Christ is wonderful.
But the Hebrews managed to construct such poetry without detracting from the theological substance. And under inspiration too! And not just for kid’s songs, but for adult ones which ranged in theme from a celebration of the Scriptures (Psalm 119) to the apex of domestic bliss (Proverbs 31) to a very personal prayer written to God in an obvious state of distress. English though has a different alphabet and order of letters, and perhaps not all poetic devices can be employed across the different languages. I wonder if it’s possible?
DM, 23rd April 2013