De vulgari eloquentia (I, xv, 1-8)

(1) Illud autem quod de ytala silva residet, percontari conemur expedientes. (1) I shall now try to bring to a rapid conclusion our hunt through what remains of the Italian forest.
(2) Dicimus ergo quod forte non male oppinantur qui Bononienses asserunt pulcriori locutione loquentes, cum ab Ymolensibus, Ferrariensibus et Mutinensibus circunstantibus aliquid proprio vulgari adsciscunt, sicut facere quoslibet a finitimis suis conicimus, ut Sordellus de Mantua sua ostendit, Cremone, Brixie atque Verone confini: qui, tantus eloquentie vir existens, non solum in poetando, sed quomodocunque loquendo patrium vulgare deseruit. (2) I say, then, that perhaps those are not wrong who claim that the Bolognese speak a more beautiful language than most, especially since they take many features of their own speech from that of the people who live around them, in Imola, Ferrara and Modena I believe that everybody does this with respect to his own neighbours, as is shown by the case of Sordello of Mantua, on the borders of Cremona, Brescia, and Verona: this man of unusual eloquence abandoned the vernacular of his home town not only when writing poetry but on every other occasion.
(3) Accipiunt etenim prefati cives ab Ymolensibus lenitatem atque mollitudinem, a Ferrariensibus vero et Mutinensibus aliqualem garrulitatem, que proprie Lombardorum est. Hanc ex commistione advenarum Longobardorum terrigenis credimus remansisse; (3) So the above-mentioned citizens of Bologna take a soft, yielding quality from those of Imola, and from the people of Ferrara and Modena, on the other hand, a certain abruptness which is more typical of the Lombards (to whom it was left, I believe, after the mingling of the original inhabitants of the area with the invading Longobards).
(4) et hec est causa quare Ferrariensium, Mutinensium, vel Regianorum nullum invenimus poetasse: nam proprie garrulitati assuefacti, nullo modo possunt ad vulgare aulicum sine quadam acerbitate venire; quod multo magis de Parmensibus est putandum, qui monto pro multo dicunt. (4) And this is why we find that no one from Ferrara, Modena, or Reggio has written poetry; for, being accustomed to their native abruptness, they could not approach the high poetic vernacular without betraying a certain lack of sophistication. And the same must also be thought, with still greater conviction, of the people of Parma, who say 'monto' when they mean 'molto' [very].
(5) Si ergo Bononienses utrinque accipiunt, ut dictum est, rationabile videtur esse quod eorum locutio per commistionem oppositorum ad laudabilem suavitatem remaneat temperata: quod procul dubio nostro iudicio sic esse censemus. (5) If, then, the Bolognese take from all sides, as I have said, it seems reasonable to suggest that their language, tempered by the combination of opposites mentioned above, should achieve a praiseworthy degree of elegance; and this, in my opinion, is beyond doubt true.
(6) Itaque, si preponentes eos in vulgari sermone sola municipalia Latinorum vulgaria comparando considerant, allubescentes concordamus cum illis; si vero simpliciter vulgare bononiense preferendum extimant, dissentientes discordamus ab eis. Non etenim est quod aulicum et illustre vocamus; quoniam, si fuisset, maximus Guido Guinizelli, Guido Ghisilerius, Fabrutius et Honestus et alii poetantes Bononie, nunquam a proprio divertissent: qui doctores fuerunt illustres et vulgarium discretione repleti. Maximus Guido: Madonna, lo fino amor c'a vui porto; Guido Ghisilerius: Donna, lo fermo core; Fabrutius: Lo meo lontano gire; Honestus: Più non attendo il tuo secorso, Amore: que quidem verba prorsus a mediastinis Bononie sunt diversa. (6) Therefore, if theirs is put forward as the most admirable of vernaculars on the basis of a comparison of all the languages actually spoken in the different cities of Italy, I will agree wholeheartedly; if, however, it were to be suggested that the Bolognese vernacular should be given pride of place in absolute terms, then, dissenting, I must register my firm disagreement. For it is not what we could call 'aulic' or 'illustrious' language; if it were, Bolognese poets like the great Guido Guinizzelli, or Guido Ghislieri, or Fabruzzo or Onesto or many others, would never have left off using it. Yet these were distinguished men of learning, who fully understood the nature of the vernacular. The great Guido wrote Madonna, 'l fino amore ch'io vi porto; [Lady, the true love that I bear you] Guido Ghislieri: Donna, lo fermo core; [Lady, the faithful heart] Fabruzzo: Lo meo lontanogire; [My distant wandering] Onesto: Più non attendo il tuo soccorso, amore. [No longer do I expect your help, love] All these words are very different from what you will hear in the heart of Bologna.
(7) Cumque de residuis in extremis Ytalie civitatibus neminem dubitare pendamus (et si quis dubitat, illum nulla nostra solutione dignamur), parum restat in nostra discussione dicendum. (7) As for the remaining cities located on the furthest edges of Italy, I do not think that anyone can have doubts about them - and if he has, I will waste no explanations on him. So there remains little to be said about our present subject.
(8) Quare, cribellum cupientes deponere, ut residentiam cito visamus, dicimus Tridentum atque Taurinum, nec non Alexandriam civitates, metis Ytalie in tantum sedere propinquas, quod puras nequeunt habere loquelas; ita quod, si etiam quod turpissimum habent vulgare haberent pulcerrimum, propter aliorum commistionem esse vere latinum negaremus; quare, si latinum illustre venamur, quod venamur in illis inveniri non potest. (8) On which account, and in order to survey quickly what is left (for I am anxious to lay down my sieve), I say that Trento and Turin, in my opinion, along with Alessandria, are situated so close to the boundaries of Italy that they could not possibly speak a pure language. So, even if they possessed the most beautiful of vernaculars - and the ones they do have are appalling - I would deny that their speech is truly Italian, because of its contamination by that of others. I conclude, therefore, that if we are hunting an illustrious form of Italian, our prey is not to be found in any of these cities.