This is a translation of a Heian period poem:

Would that of this journey I had heard. So had my heart been with you when you sought the cuckoo's song.

What does 'Would that of this journey I had heard.' mean? I know 'would that it were' (I wish that it were) but I still can't figure this out.

  • 1
    I wish I had heard of this journey. – deadrat May 22 '16 at 3:32

You could indeed replace would with I wish in this sentence, as in would that it were. Another odd thing about this sentence is the (probably poetic) inversion of I had heard and of this journey. This kind of inversion can be used when the author wants to begin the clause with the topic of the sentence, because the topic can be emphasised as such by placing it at the beginning. That gives us the following modernisation:

I wish that I had heard of this journey.

I think so had my heart been with you... should be read as "then my heart would have been with you...".

  • The inverted syntax is typical of the unnatural "poetical" language vilified by modernist poets of the early 20th century. – TRomano May 22 '16 at 16:02

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