Dante sees a hill crowned with sunlight. He tries to climb the hill breathless, but three sinister beasts (a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf) stand in his way, driving him back down into the darkness of the forest. Dante is rescued by the poet Virgil. The two poets then start their journey into Hell.
Canto I, 22-27
And even as he, who, with distressful breath,
Forth issued from the sea upon the shore,
Turns to the water perilous and gazes;
So did my soul, that still was fleeing onward,
Turn itself back to re-behold the pass
Which never yet a living person left.
Canto I, 31-33
And lo! almost where the ascent began,
A panther light and swift exceedingly,
Which with a spotted skin was covered o’er!
Canto I, 44-45
But not so much, that did not give me fear
A lion’s aspect which appeared to me.
Canto I, 49-51
And a she-wolf, that with all hungerings
Seemed to be laden in her meagreness,
And many folk has caused to live forlorn!