what. the hell?

Enigma, Gustave Doré, 1871

Dante Alighieri, Commedia Divina, Inferno, Canto 1:

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh—
the very thought of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter death is hardly more so.
But to set forth the good I found
I will recount the other things I saw.
How I came there I cannot really tell,
I was so full of sleep
when I forsook the one true way.
But when I reached the foot of a hill,
there where the valley ended
that had pierced my heart with fear,
looking up, I saw its shoulders
arrayed in the first light of the planet
that leads men straight, no matter what their road.
Then the fear that had endured
in the lake of my heart, all the night
I spent in such distress, was calmed.
And as one who, with laboring breath,
has escaped from the deep to the shores
turns and looks back at the perilous waters,
so my mind, still in flight,
turned back to look once more upon the pass
no mortal being ever left alive.
After I rested my wearied flesh a while,
I took my way again along the desert slope,
my firm foot always lower than the other.
But now, near the beginning of the steep,
a leopard light and swift
and covered with a spotted pelt
refused to back away from me
but so impeded, barred the way,
© 2002, karloff@unvoll.com