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Necrosweepist

..., and vile it <were> for some three suns to store and hold myself...

An excerpt from A. L. Tennyson's Ulysses.I have always wondered why were is used here - I understand it's probably the subjunctive mood, but why it was chosen here (over was) is beyond my comprehension.Could someone please explain?In case you need more context and don't want to look up the poem:Little remains, but every hour is savedFrom that eternal silence, something more,A bringer of new things; and vile it wereFor some three suns to store and hoard myself,<-----Excess quote removed by moderator (Florentai52)-----> 

3 answers answer to the question ..., and vile it <were> for some three suns to store and hold myself...

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keith-bradford updated 25 November
It's not actually subjunctive, though it looks like one. It's a poetic conditional, and means "it would be vile". Not used in everyday English.(PS: Alfred, Lord Tennyson, not A.L.Tennyson. "Lord" is a title, not a name.) 
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Necrosweepist updated 25 November
Many thanks.And now I even know whence the strange comma cometh (in the name)! 
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bulilia updated 28 December
It seems Lord Tennyson used one of the of 'Irrealis moods' which Wiki defines as 'the set of grammatical moods that indicate that something is not actually the case or a certain situation or action is not known to have happened. They are any verb or sentence mood that are not realis moods. They may be part of expressions of necessity, possibility, requirement, wish or desire, fear, or as part of counterfactual reasonings, etc.'. Anyway, this form is not common in everyday speech and belongs to poetic means.
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