Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mother Goose: omniscient frequent-flyer or airborne busybody?

Somewhere in the dim, distant past I learned the following little poem:

Monday’s child is fair of face;
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is loving and giving;
Thursday’s child works hard for a living.
Friday’s child is full of woe;
Saturday’s child has far to go.
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

My first observation is that this poem is obviously very old because the word “gay” used to mean something besides what springs into many people’s minds nowadays. In fact, our old friend Wikipedia says the poem first appeared in print in Harper's Weekly on September 17, 1887.

My second observation is that Sunday is not really the Sabbath day. Ask any Jewish or Seventh-day Adventist person who is serious about his or her religion and he or she will tell you that the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. Christians began calling Sunday “the Lord’s day” very early. In fact, the apostle John wrote in the book of Revelation, chapter 1, verse 10: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.” No mention of the Sabbath.

My third observation is that good old Wikipedia has an interesting article on the origins and versions of this poem, and rather than telling you myself, you can go read it here.

Before I begin sounding like a cross between old-time gossip columnist Louella Parsons (“My next exclusive!”) and one of the Puritan divines droning on (“Twenty-fourthly,”), let me ask you two questions: Do you know on what day of the week you were born? (I was born on a Tuesday.) More importantly, did Mother Goose have you pegged? (In my case, I certainly hope so; I need all the grace I can get.)

And then, of course, there is one little problem. Since the real Mother Goose -- if there was a real Mother Goose -- is said to have lived in the seventeenth century, she couldn’t have had anything to do with this poem.

In unrelated news, Jethro is getting groomed today.


  1. I learned the following, along the same lines but with different attributes for the days. I was born on a Wednesday, and have always felt sort of "woe-ish." I'm a born worrier/sweat the details sort of person. Three of my four children were born on Thursday, and one on Friday. My Friday child is the most loving and giving person one could hope to find. One of the Thursday children has traveled the world over in her career with the USAF; the other two have traveled, but not quite so much.

    I'd say that you are "full of grace," so perhaps the rhyme has something to it. ;)

    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.
    Friday's child is loving and giving.
    Saturday's child works hard for a living,
    But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
    Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

  2. Pat, thanks as always for commenting. I thought it was interesting in the Wikipedia article that these daily characteristics can be arranged to correspond to various systems of deities (Norse, etc.).

    Thanks for the compliment, too.

    Now that you presented the version you know, I can't decide which way I learned it. That "Saturday's child works hard for a living" has a familiar ring to it, though.

  3. I learned it the way Pat did.

    I was born on a Thursday about 8:00 or 8:30 because that's when hospitals did C-sections back then, according to my mom anyway.

    I always hoped that "far to go" meant in terms of achievement, not geography. I've lived in Illinois my whole life, within about 100 miles of my birthplace.

  4. Ruth, I think I agree with the version you and Pat remember. Something about the alliteration of Wednesday's child being full of woe also rings a bell in my barely conscious.

  5. Good post to prompt thoughts about something I haven't thought of for ages......that old poem. I must have learned the version you have on your post, for it used to give me some angst that I was supposed to be someone "full of woe". It bothered me as a kid, it really did.

    I must confess I like the other version better where Friday's child is "loving and giving". And, that's just very interesting about the weekdays' traits coming from the attributes of ancient deities. I've always been intrigued by the names of the days of the, when, and where they first came into use, that sort of thing. "Pagan" origins, which is so very interesting! I wonder, do other cultures, such as in the Orient, use these same names for days of the week?

    Thank you for bring this to our attention! I'll be thinking about "Freyja" all day now.

  6. I'm going to attempt to use Ruth's instructions for doing links inside's a couple more Mother Goose links:

    Mother Goose Origins

    Big Foot Bertha

  7. Yes, I think Wednesday's child is full of woe too - that's the way I learned it. As for me, I'm bonny and blithe and good and gay. Apparently.

  8. I as well learned it as Wednesday's child is full of woe. In fact I used to tease my sister about being born on Wednesday. I was born on Friday but then again I was only born this year according to my earlier comments. Rather smart for such a young one, am I not?

  9. I know Pat's version of this rhyme, and I was born on a Wednesday, and yes, it's true I get depressed easily.

    I always thought it was rather unfair that I wasn't born on a Sunday, or failing that, a Monday. I knew I had no chance of being graceful, so that put Tuesday out of the running .. as a child I had no idea that it didn't mean 'like a swan or ballerina'.