De vulgari eloquentia (I, xvii, 1-7)

(1) Quare autem hoc quod repertum est illustre, cardinale, aulicum et curiale adicientes vocemus, nunc disponendum est; per quod clarius ipsum quod ipsum est faciamus patere. Primum igitur quid intendimus cum illustre adicimus, et quare illustre dicimus, denudemus. (1) Now, however, it becomes necessary to explain why what we have found should be given the epithets 'illustrious', 'cardinal', 'aulic', and 'curial'; and by so doing I shall reveal more clearly what the phenomenon is in itself. First of all, therefore, I shall explain what I mean when I use the term 'illustrious', and why it is applied to the vernacular.
(2) Per hoc quoque quod illustre dicimus, intelligimus quid illuminans et illuminatum prefulgens. Et hoc modo viros appellamus illustres, vel quia, potestate illuminati, alios et iustitia et karitate illuminant; vel quia, excellenter magistrati, excellenter magistrent, ut Seneca et Numa Pompilius. Et vulgare de quo loquimur, et sublimatum est magistratu et potestate, et suos honore sublimat et gloria. (2) Now when we call something 'illustrious', we mean that it gives off light or reflects the light that it receives from elsewhere: and we call men 'illustrious' in this sense, either because, enlightened by power, they shine forth justice and charity upon other people, or because, excellently taught, they teach most excellently, like Seneca or Numa Pompilius. And this vernacular of which I speak is both sublime in learning and power, and capable of exalting those who use it in honour and glory.
(3) Magistratu quidem sublimatum videtur, cum de tot rudibus Latinorum vocabulis, de tot perplexis constructionibus, de tot defectivis prolationibus, de tot rusticanis accentibus, tam egregium, tam extricatum, tam perfectum et tam urbanum videamus electum, ut Cinus Pistoriensis et amicus eius ostendunt in cantionibus suis. (3) That it is sublime in learning is clear when we see it emerge, so outstanding, so lucid, so perfect and so civilised, from among so many ugly words used by Italians, so many convoluted constructions, so many defective formations, and so many barbarous pronunciations - as Cino da Pistoia and his friend show us in their canzoni.
(4) Quod autem sit exaltatum potestate, videtur. Et quid maioris potestatis est quam quod humana corda versare potest, ita ut nolentem volentem et volentem nolentem faciat, velut ipsum et fecit et facit? (4) That it is exalted in power is plain. And what greater power could there be than that which can melt the hearts of human beings, so as to make the unwilling willing and the willing unwilling, as it has done and still does?
(5) Quod autem honore sublimet, in promptu est. Nonne domestici sui, reges, marchiones, comites, et magnates quoslibet fama vincunt? Minime hoc probatione indiget. (5) That it raises to honour is readily apparent. Does not the fame of its devotees exceed that of any king, marquis, count or warlord? There is no need to prove this.
(6) Quantum vero suos familiares gloriosos efficiat, nos ipsi novimus, qui huius dulcedine glorie nostrum exilium postergamus. (6) And I myself have known how greatly it increases the glory of those who serve it, I who, for the sake of that glory's sweetness, have the experience of exile behind me.
(7) Quare ipsum illustre merito profiteri debemus. (7) For all these reasons we are right to call this vernacular 'illustrious'.