I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin.

For then, I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
With equanimity.

But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.
(Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, Penguin Classics’ note.9)

Is the bold part a subjunctive mood –– would it came God to pass?


This is a variation on the rather old-fashioned construction Would that ... . For example:

Would that I could help you.

Would that the fighting stopped (would stop).

It is equivalent to saying:

I wish that I could help you.

I wish that the fighting would stop.

Would God it came to pass means something like:

I pray to God that it will happen.

  • 1
    +1 You might explain that come to pass is an idiom meaning happen, eventuate and that God is the subject of the clause: May God will that it come to pass. Jul 28 '13 at 11:04
  • Thanks for adding to my explanation. A follow-on question could ask about the difference, if any, between Would God that ... and Would to God that ... . The former seems to be a direct invocation and the latter more of an expression of a heartfelt wish: Would to God that their dog would stop its incessant barking.
    – Shoe
    Jul 28 '13 at 11:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.