De vulgari eloquentia (I, xii, 1-9)

(1) Exaceratis quodam modo vulgaribus ytalis, inter ea que remanserunt in cribro comparationem facientes, honorabilius atque honorificentius breviter seligamus. (1) Having thus, as best we can, blown away the chaff from among the vernaculars of Italy, let us compare those that have remained in the sieve with each other, and quickly make our choice of the one that enjoys and confers the greatest honour.
(2) Et primo de siciliano examinemus ingenium, nam videtur sicilianum vulgare sibi famam pre aliis asciscere, eo quod quicquid poetantur Ytali sicilianum vocatur, et eo quod perplures doctores indigenas invenimus graviter cecinisse: puta in cantionibus illis, Ancor che l'aigua per lo focho lassi, et Amor, che lungiamente m'ài menat.. (2) First let us turn our attention to the language of Sicily, since the Sicilian vernacular seems to hold itself in higher regard than any other, first because all poetry written by Italians is called 'Sicilian', and then because we do indeed find that many learned natives of that island have written serious poetry, as, for example, in the canzoni Ancor che l'aigua per lo foco lassi [Although water flees from fire] and Amor, che lungiamente m'hai menato. [Love, who long have led me]
(3) Sed hec fama trinacrie terre, si recte signum ad quod tendit inspiciamus, videtur tantum in obproprium ytalorum principum remansisse, qui, non heroico more, sed plebeo secuntur superbiam. (3) But this fame enjoyed by the Trinacrian isle, if we carefully consider the end to which it leads, seems rather to survive only as a reproof to the princes of Italy, who are so puffed up with pride that they live in a plebeian, not a heroic, fashion.
(4) Siquidem illustres heroes Fredericus Cesar et benegenitus eius Manfredus, nobilitatem ac rectitudinem sue forme pandentes, donec fortuna permansit, humana secuti sunt, brutalia dedignantes; propter quod corde nobiles atque gratiarum dotati inherere tantorum principum maiestati conati sunt; ita ut eorum tempore quicquid excellentes Latinorum enitebantur, primitus in tantorum coronatorum aula prodibat; et quia regale solium erat Sicilia, factum est ut quicquid nostri predecessores vulgariter protulerunt, sicilianum vocaretur: quod quidem retinemus et nos, nec posteri nostri permutare valebunt. (4) Indeed, those illustrious heroes, the Emperor Frederick and his worthy son Manfred, knew how to reveal the nobility and integrity that were in their hearts; and, as long as fortune allowed, they lived in a manner befitting men, despising the bestial life. On this account, all who were noble of heart and rich in graces strove to attach themselves to the majesty of such worthy princes, so that, in their day, all that the most gifted individuals in Italy brought forth first came to light in the court of these two great monarchs. And since Sicily was the seat of the imperial throne, it came about that whatever our predecessors wrote in the vernacular was called 'Sicilian'. This term is still in use today, and posterity will be able to do nothing to change it.
(5) Rachà, rachà! Quid nunc personat tuba novissimi Federici? quid tintinabulum secundi Karoli? quid cornua Iohannis et Azzonis marchionum potentum? quid aliorum magnatum tibie? nisi Venite, carnifices; Venite, altriplices; Venite, avaritie sectatores! (5) Racha, racha! [Thou fool] What is the noise made now by the trumpet of the latest Frederick, or the bells of the second Charles, or the horns of the powerful marquises Giovanni and Azzo, or the pipes of the other warlords? 'Only Come, you butchers! Come, you traitors! Come, you devotees of greed!'
(6) Sed prestat ad propositum repedare quam frustra loqui; et dicimus quod si vulgare sicilianum accipere volumus secundum quod prodit a terrigenis mediocribus, ex ore quorum iudicium eliciendum videtur, prelationis honore minime dignum est, quia non sine quodam tempore profertur; ut puta ibi: Tragemi d'este focora, se t'este a boluntate. Si autem ipsum accipere volumus secundum quod ab ore primorum Siculorum emanat, ut in preallegatis cantionibus perpendi potest, nichil differt ab illo quod laudabilissimum est, sicut inferius ostendemus. (6) But I should rather return to my subject than waste words like this. So I say that, if by Sicilian vernacular we mean what is spoken by the average inhabitants of the island - and they should clearly be our standard of comparison - then this is far from worthy of the honour of heading the list, because it cannot be pronounced without a certain drawl, as in this case: Tragemi d'este focora se t'este a bolontate. [Get me out of this fire, if you would be so kind] If, however, we mean what emerges from the mouths of the leading citizens of Sicily - examples of which may be found in the canzoni quoted above - then it is in no way distinguishable from the most praiseworthy variety of the vernacular, as I shall show below.
(7) Apuli quoque, vel sui acerbitate, vel finitimorum suorum contiguitate, qui Romani et Marchiani sunt, turpiter barbarizant. Dicunt enim, Volzera che chiangesse lo quatraro. (7) The people of Apulia, to continue, whether through their own native crudity or through the proximity of their neighbours (the Romans and the people of the Marches), use many gross barbarisms: they say: Bòlzera che chiangesse lo quatraro. [I would like the boy to cry]
(8) Sed quamvis terrigene Apuli loquantur obscene comuniter, prefulgentes eorum quidam polite locuti sunt, vocabula curialiora in suis cantionibus compilantes, ut manifeste apparet eorum dicta perspicientibus, ut puta Madonna, dire vi volglio, et Per fino amore vo sì letamente. (8) But although the inhabitants of Apulia generally speak in a base fashion, some of the most distinguished among them have managed to attain a more refined manner, by including courtlier words in their poetry. This will be clear to anyone who examines their works, such as Madonna, dir vi voglio, [Lady, I wish to tell you] and Per fino amore vo sì letamente. [I go so happily for true love's sake]
(9) Quapropter superiora notantibus innotescere debet, neque siculum, nec apulum esse illud quod in Ytalia pulcerrimum est vulgare, cum eloquentes indigenas ostenderimus a proprio divertisse. (9) Therefore, if we take due account of what was said above, it seems irrefutable that neither Sicilian nor the language of Apulia can be the most beautiful of the Italian vernaculars, since, as I have shown, the most eloquent natives of the two regions have preferred not to use them.