Solomon Grundy – The Nursery Rhyme

‘Solomon Grundy’ is a nursery rhyme, that like many nursery rhymes, dates back to the nineteenth century. Its lyrics were first recorded in 1842 by James Orchard Halliwell. Since its first publication, the song has changed very little. The lyrics have been translated into several other languages and the poem is used by children around the world as a way to learn the days of the week. 

This poem is one of several that originates from that period and was meant to educate children. Another good example is Monday’s Child’ which takes the reader or listener through the different “children” of the week, assigning each one a destiny. 

 

The Meaning of Solomon Grundy 

As is the case with many nineteenth-century nursery rhymes, ‘Solomon Grundy’ has an unknown heritage. But, the meaning is fairly clear.

With the names of days included in every line of the poem, it is obvious that this poem was meant to teach children in an amusing and memorable way, the days of the week.

The character of Solomon Grundy lives out his whole life within the short lines of this poem. He was “Born on a Monday” and then “Died on Saturday”. 

In more recent decades, the name “Solomon Grundy” has taken on a darker tone. It has been used by DC Comics to create a horrifying character, appearing to have risen from the dead. The poem is even used as a way to tease/scare children into behaving if the speaker alludes to the return of Solomon Grundy after his burial on Sunday. 

 

Poetic Techniques in Solomon Grundy 

Despite its brevity, there are several poetic techniques at work in ‘Solomon Grundy’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, sibilance, rhyme, and enjambment. The first of these, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “Tuesday” and “Took” in lines three and five. 

Sibilance is similar to alliteration but it is concerned with soft vowel sounds such as “s” and “th”. This kind of repetition usually results in a prolonged hissing or rushing sound. It is often used to mimic another sound, like water, wind, or any kind of fluid movement. For instance, “Saturday,” “Sunday,” and “Solomon” in the last lines of the poem. This technique helps add rhythm to the already very well rhymed and patterned lines. 

There is one example of enjambment in these lines. It 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. In this case, the transition between the last two lines of the poem.

 

Rhyme in Solomon Grundy 

Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. In this case, there is the obvious example of “Grundy” and all the days of the week “Monday,” “Tuesday,” etc. There is also an example of perfect rhyme in these lines with “Married” and “Buried” at the beginnings of lines four and seven. 

Rhyme is one of, if not the, most important techniques in children’s poetry.  It is used to make the lines more pleasing to read as well as listen to. It also should help keep a child’s attention for longer. The poet also achieves this through the humorous nature of the content. The events of the poem should be relatable to the child hearing or reading it. Additionally, rhyme is used to emphasize the stranger, more nonsensical elements of children’s poetry. While this poem is relatively straightforward, often the perfect and half-rhymes help connect the stranger events and characters in lines of verse. This can be seen in the works of Lewis Carroll, A.A. Milne, and Ogden Nash. 

 

Analysis of Solomon Grundy 

Lines 1-5

Solomon Grundy,

Born on a Monday,

Christened on Tuesday,

Married on Wednesday,

Took ill on Thursday,

In the first five lines of this ten-line poem the speaker introduces the main character, Solomon Grundy. He lives a simple life throughout the short lines of this nursery rhyme. In the first, he is born, is christened, is married, and then takes ill. Before a reader or listener knows it Grundy is on death’s doorstep. 

 

Lines 6-10 

Grew worse on Friday,

Died on Saturday,

Buried on Sunday.

That was the end,

Of Solomon Grundy.

In the final five lines, the last days of Grundy’s life are filled with increasing sickness, death, and then burial. This is an interesting way to layout the life of a character in a nursery rhyme, with half of it taken up with the proceedings of death. This alludes to a darker, more adult theme at the heart of the poem. Life is short, death can come quickly. 

This is emphasized by the quick conclusion of ‘Solomon Grundy’. All of a sudden he’s dead and “That was the end”. 

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