Monday’s Child Nursery Rhyme

The first recorded version of ‘Monday’s Child’ was in A.E. Bray’s Traditions of Devonshire published in 1838. It is one of several fortune-telling poems. Supposedly, a child born on a specific day of the week, as referenced in the poem, will be destined accordingly. For example, if you were born on Wednesday your life was going to be “full of woe”. The poem has also been used to teach children the days of the week.

Despite its publication origins, there are records of similar poems that also used the days of the week and predictive statements dating back to the 1500s. What the days corresponded to change from version to version.

 

Structure of Monday’s Child

‘Monday’s Child’ is an eight-line nursery rhyme that makes use of a simple rhyme scheme, a feature common to nursery rhymes. It follows a pattern of AABBCCDD. The sing-song-like patterning of these rhymes is part of the appeal of the poem.

The best nursery rhymes, the ones that are remembered for decades, and even centuries, are those with catchy rhyme schemes and interesting content. That content is often nonsensical and obscure. The origins, inspirations and allusions vanish over time util the phrases are very much up for interpretation. Most nursery rhymes belong to a genre of poetry known as nonsense verse. Writers who have contributed to this genre include Lewis Carroll and Ogden Nash. 

 

Poetic Techniques in Monday’s Child

Despite its brevity, there are several poetic techniques at work in ‘Monday’s Child’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, repetition, allusion, and enjambment. The latter, enjambment, occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transition between lines seven and eight. 

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. It is one of the most important techniques at work in ‘Monday’s Child’ and can be seen in almost every line. For example, “fair of face” in the first line and “bonny and blithe” and “good and gay” in the last line. There is also the general repetition of words beginning with “f” in the first five lines. 

An allusion is an expression that’s meant to call something specific to mind without directly stating it. In the last lines of this largely humorous and light-hearted poem, there is an allusion to a moral message. That it is best, and one will be happier if they are more religious. The children born on the Sabbath day, Sunday, are going to be “bonny and blithe” as well as “good and gay”. 

Repetition is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. In this case, the entire poem is based around the repetition of a specific structure. A day of the week is attributed to a specific fate six times over until the pattern deviates in the last lines.

 

Analysis of Monday’s Child 

Lines 1-4

Monday’s child is fair of face

Tuesday’s child is full of grace

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

Thursday’s child has far to go,

In the first lines of ‘Monday’s Child,’ a reader or listener encounters a description of children born on Monday through Thursday. A short statement follows each ay of the week, supposedly containing an attribute that applies to anyone born on that day. There are examples of alliteration in the first few lines, such as “fair of face” and “full” in lines two and three. 

These first four lines also utilize the same metrical pattern. Each line contains the same number of words and syllables. The lines are trochaic with a single extra stressed beat ending each line. 

 

Lines 5-8

Friday’s child is loving and giving,

Saturday’s child works hard for a living,

And the child that is born on the Sabbath day

Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

In the next four lines of ‘Monday’s Child,’ the pattern changes. The syllables increase and in the last lines, the format disappears altogether. There is a good example of enjambment in the transition between lines seven and eight. This is the only example in this particular peace, with the other lines forming complete statements or making use of end-punctuation. In the last two lines, there is an added emphasis on what it means to be born on Sunday, Sabbath day.

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