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Ados, a novice, saying about his master William.

I never saw him again and know not what became of him but I pray always that God received his soul and forgave.

What is the meaning of " Know not what became of him " in above sentence?

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  • He doesn't know what happened to his master.
    – V.V.
    Jul 31, 2017 at 10:17

2 Answers 2

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To simplify matters, I will trim out most of the sentence and just look at this:

I know not what became of him.

(The difference between this and what you asked about is that I have included the subject, "I".)

I know not…

In modern English, if we want to say the negative of a verb, we almost always have to rephrase it as "to do [infinitive]" first. The "not" then goes after the "do".

I ate the cake.

I did eat the cake.

I did not eat the cake.

However, this was not always true. In old-fashioned use, it was acceptable to negate a verb directly by putting "not" after it (or after its object), without rephrasing to use "to do" first.

I ate the cake.

I ate not the cake.

Nowadays, this old-fashioned style is sometimes used deliberately in literary situations.

I know what became of him.

I know not what became of him.

…what became of him.

"What becomes of [someone]" is another way of saying "what happens to [someone]". It is also a little bit old-fashioned.

Unlike just "happens", this implies a fairly permanent result; not necessarily death, but certainly a change in the person's long-term situation. In this case, though, it does mean death: "I pray that God received his soul" means "I believe he died (and hope that he went to heaven)".

I know not what became of him.

I do not know how he spent the rest of his life or how he died.

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X not = I do not X

I never saw him again and know not what became of him ...

I never saw him again and do not know what became of him ...

Saying X not lends a literary-ish quality to the sentence.

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