Posted by Smokey Stover on January 14, 2006
In Reply to: Would that it were so posted by R. Berg on January 14, 2006
: : Does anyone know where the phrase "Would that it were so" comes from?
: Are you asking who used it first? Probably no one knows. That kind of question can't usually be answered unless the phrase occurred in a literary work.
It doesn't involve any strange idioms or obsolete customs, so it just comes from the normal practice of speaking English. What is different about it, if anything, is that it uses the subjunctive and has a certain old-fashioned sound. Other ways of saying the same thing are, "If only that were so," "Were it but so," and, most economically of words, "Ah, if only!" SS