In a poem of Alfred Tennyson, he says:


I would that I were dead.

He means:

I wish I were dead.

Is there any difference?

Is it the case that "would" must be followed by "that" in this example?

Is that old English?
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Hi Anon

Yes, as far as I know, this usage of the word 'would' is always followed by 'that'. This is a literary usage, used to express a wish.
I believe the "that" can be omitted, as in Romeo and Juliet:

1. "I would I were thy bird." "Sweet, so would I."

Best wishes,

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Thanks for the tip, MrP. Emotion: surprise
Thanks Yanki and MrPedantic!

That is amazing!

I would I could compose poems like Tennyson. So can we say that we can replace "I wish" with "I would" as in my sentence in blue.
Personally, I never use 'would' that way unless I am attempting to jokingly imitate a famous poet from hundreds of years ago!

It is good that you understand that usage of 'would' so that you understand poetry or very old literature, but I strongly recommend that you avoid using 'would' that way yourself.
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Yes it is Old English though, noone would ever say that now, so I suggest you don't use it like that Emotion: wink.
I'm sorry, I slightly misread the question – to clarify, I meant that "I would I were X" may be found, as well as "I would that I were X".

I would agree with Yankee on usage: it would sound a little arch or jocular in current English.

"I would (that) X!" formations turn up quite often in literature (esp. poetry) until the beginning of the 20th century, but then become quite rare, except as deliberate archaism.

Yes, dated:
You shall, I trust, rest here with me a while, so that by our talking
I may learn the English intonation. And I would that you tell me when
I make error, even of the smallest, in my speaking. I am sorry that I
had to be away so long today, but you will, I know forgive one who has
so many important affairs in hand.

Extract from
by Bram Stoker, 1897
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