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>> Lake's answer would be that the phrase is an allusion to the Commedia's
>> "Ahi, quanto a dir qual era e cosa dura [Ah, how hard it is to tell what
>> that wood was]". So it seemed like an interesting thesis to explore on
>> list.

> Well, here I am with my non-existant Italian again but I would translate
> this differently and crudely as:
>     Ah, how to say that it was a hard thing.
> If I were to get poetic I might play with the dura/hard to try either
> difficult, fearful or trying.


My apologies. I don't think I did too well with this post.  I was
still too groggy to do any real thinking.  I was taking "Ah, how hard
it is to tell what that wood was" as the translation of "Ahi, quanto a
dir qual era e cosa dura" and thinking that the thing/cosa that was
hard was implied to be the wood.

The opening is:
    Ahi quanto a dir qual era e` cosa dura
    esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
    che nel pensier rinova la paura!
And this would mean that the hard thing is the telling instead of the
wood.  I was thinking that the wood being a hard thing was meant to be
a difficult or trying place. I should have gone to the source right
away.

Still, the English "hard" and, it appears, the Italian "dura" can be
used to mean
   Resistant to pressure; not readily penetrated
and
   Requiring great effort or endurance; difficult

In "Dans" the French "dur" is being used somewhat like the first case
(a fact set in concrete, pressure cannot change it) while in the
Inferno the "dura" is being used in the second sense.  So, I don't see
Eliot alluding to the meaning of Dante but he could have just been
using the word.  As I think Arrowsmith pointed out, the end of
Gerotion used many of the words from a Ruskin description of a
painting.

I now leave with no conclusion what-so-ever.

Regards,
   Rick Parker