..., and vile it <were> for some three suns to store and hold myself...


New Member
Czech - CR
An excerpt from A. L. Tennyson's Ulysses.

I have always wondered why were is used here - I understand it's probably the subjunctive mood, but why it was chosen here (over was) is beyond my comprehension.

Could someone please explain?

In case you need more context and don't want to look up the poem:

Little remains, but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
<-----Excess quote removed by moderator (Florentai52)----->
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    It's not actually subjunctive, though it looks like one. It's a poetic conditional, and means "it would be vile". Not used in everyday English.

    (PS: Alfred, Lord Tennyson, not A.L.Tennyson. "Lord" is a title, not a name.)
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