In the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither.

This is a sentence from a speech of Albert Einstein. When I first read it, I could hardly recognize what the "they" and "them" refer to, totally confused by the inversions. So I read the context and try to rewrite the inverted sentence, and get this one:

Many mansions are in the temple of science, and people that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither are various indeed.

Is this right?

And the second example...

(two characters met in the battle field) Character A:"Good to see you." Character B:"Would it were under different circumstances, my friend."

Wow, I can get the meaning but I haven't seen a sentence like this before. I wonder how it works and rewrite it with normal order and make it more complete.

It would (be good) (if that) were under different circumstances.

But "Would it were under different circumstances" still looks very weird for me and I don't know why this sentence would be like this after inversion. Or, did I just do wrong in the rewrite?

1 Answer 1


These are both intentionally archaic forms.

The Einstein quote is deliberately referring to the Bible, in particular the New Testament. The first part quotes the book of John, which in the traditional King James translation reads:

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.

Although the rest of the sentence is not as direct a quote, it is using the same style, using "they" where in modern language we would say "those" - for example, the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew (from the same translation):

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Your paraphrase is right, although "indeed" is itself a bit archaic.

In the second quote, you're perhaps a bit misled by the word "would". In that context, it means "[I] wish". See for example this question. So it's not really an inversion at all - a modern paraphrase would be:

I wish it were under different circumstances, my friend.

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