"when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived"

   A reference to Dante Alighieri's epic 14th-century poem The Divine Comedy - an allegory of medieval Christian philosophy, represented by Dante's own imagined journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven in the poem's three parts.  This passage refers to the first and most famous, Dante's Inferno, which draws on both Biblical scripture and classical myth to vividly depict the monstrous wardens of Hell and the graphic torments visited on its inmates.  Besides the complex political and religious subtext it contains, Dante's work has long functioned in popular culture mainly as a ready source of macabre imagery.

 

Online edition of Dante Alighieri's 'Divine Comedy' as translated by Rev. HF Cary, M.A., (1805)