Catholic Encyclopedia: Psalms, Alphabetic
Alphabetic psalms are so called because their successive verses, or successive parallel
series, begin with the successive letters of the alphabet. Some of these formations are
perfectly regular, others are more or less defective. Among the regular Alphabetic
Psalms must be reckoned Pss. cx, cxi, cxviii (Heb., Pss. cxi, cxii, cxix). The praise of the
strong woman in Prov., xxxi, 10-31, and the first four chapters of Lamentations exhibit a
similar regular formation. Pss. cx and cxi consist of twenty-two verses each, and
successive verse begins with the corresponding successive letter of the alphabet. Ps.
cxviii consists of twenty-two strophes containing each eight distichs; the successive
twenty-two strophes are built on the twenty-two letters of the alphabet in such a way
that each of the eight distichs of the first strophe begins with the first letter, each of the
eight distichs of the second strophe begin with the second letter, etc. Prov., xxxi, 10,
consists of twenty-two distichs, each successive distich beginning with the successive
corresponding letter of the alphabet. Lam., i, ii, iv, consist each of twenty-two short
strophes beginning with the successive letters of the alphabet. In Lam., iii, each
successive letter of the alphabet begins three lines, so that the chapter consists of sixty-
six lines in which each letter of the alphabet occurs three times as the initial of the line.
Defectively Alphabetic Psalms may be found in Pss. ix, xxiv, xxxiv, xxvi, cxliv (Heb., ix,
x, xxv, xxxvii, cxlv). But the device is not limited to the Book of Psalms; it is also found
in other poetical portions of the Old Testament.
VIGOUROUX, (Paris, 1895).
Taken from the New Advent Web Page (www.knight.org/advent).
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