I am reading a translation of Dante’s Inferno made by Cary in 1805. Here I cite the translator’s text for the opening of Canto I:
In the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
Gone from the path direct; and e’en to tell
It were no easy task, how savage wild
That forest, how robust and rough its growth
Which to remember only, my dismay
Renews, in bitterness not far from death.
I cannot understand why the translator uses were when he says:
- and e’en to tell / It were no easy task
Instead of using this version with was:
- and e’en to tell / It was no easy task
Can anyone tell me why he used were there? Is the subject of were really both the forest and its growth, which is why it is plural not singular for it?
Can anyone paraphrase this sentence?