A farmer must be up and doing in spring if he would reap in harvest

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nkaper

Senior Member
russian
A farmer must be up and doing in spring if he would reap in harvest

Could somebody explain why is this form of the verb used here? Why not 'will'? For the sake of poetical mood of the sentence, or 'would' indeed is the only correct form here, and not 'will'?
Thanks in advance.
 
  • nkaper

    Senior Member
    russian
    Where did you see this sentence? What is the source? Is it modern English, or hundreds of years old?
    Well, not exactly hundreds
    English Idioms And How To Use Them : Mcmordie, W. : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

    It's just that, it seems, here might be a particular logic. It's as if the speaker of it is supposed to say it when it is already harvest or close to it, not spring at any rate, and it is as if he reprimands the illusional farmer for his idleness in spring, and the whole sentence with modern verbs sounds 'A farmer ought to have been up and doing in spring if he wanted to reap in harvest'
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    This is an old meaning of the verb "would". It isn't the modern "would reap", which is another form of "reap". It is not the auxiliary verb "will"/"would" used to mark verb tenses of other verbs.

    Instead this "would" means "intends to" or "wants to" or "expects to". This "would" is a form of the verb "will" meaning "exert your will; desire; wish; want". For example:

    I will that you remain here. (not said in 2018, but common in 1718)

    Original: A farmer must be up and doing in spring if he would reap in harvest.

    Modern 1: A farmer must be up and doing in spring if he wants to reap in harvest.
    Modern 2: A farmer must be up and doing in spring if he expects to reap in harvest.
    Modern 3: A farmer must be up and doing in spring if he intends to reap in harvest.
    Modern 4: A farmer must be up and doing in spring in order to reap in harvest.

    (Of course modern English would change other words slightly.)
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I checked the source - quite an interesting thing to browse through. It has a publication date of 1929, but this is the fifth edition, and I suspect the original dates from the nineteenth century, although some of the language appears to have been chosen to match the Authorised Version of the Bible (1611). The title page is illuminating:
    ENGLISH IDIOMS
    AND HOW TO USE THEM

    With an appendix
    EXPLAINING COMMON ALLUSIONS TO PERSONS AND
    INCIDENTS MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE

    A BOOK FOR STUDENTS IN THE EAST​
    It was published by the Oxford University Press in India.

    The quotation is an illustration of the use of "up and doing", a rather old-fashioned expression now, but I have heard it used by people of my grandparent's generation. meaning "busy" or "active".

    "If he would" is an obsolete way of saying "if he wants to". "Would" is used to express a wish, as is "will", and OED marks both as obsolete in this meaning. I would not like to comment on the use of the past tense, except to say that I recognise the form from other old writings, and I would not substitute "would" for "will" here; if you are going to use an obsolete meaning of a word, you ought to use the obsolete tense to go with it.

    [cross-posted]
     
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