De vulgari eloquentia (II, iii, 1-11)

(1) Nunc autem quomodo ea coartare debemus que tanto sunt digna vulgari, sollicite vestigare conemur. (1) Now, however, let us quickly try to find out how the themes that are worthy of such a vernacular are to be constrained.
(2) Volentes igitur modum tradere quo ligari hec digna existant, primo dicimus esse ad memoriam reducendum quod vulgariter poetantes sua poemata multimode protulerunt, quidam per cantiones, quidam per ballatas, quidam per sonitus, quidam per alios illegiptimos et inregulares modos, ut inferius ostendetur. (2) Wishing, then, to explain how these worthy themes are to be connected in poetry, I shall first say that it ought to be remembered that writers of poetry in the vernacular have composed their poems using many different forms, some writing canzoni, some ballate, some sonnets, and some using other illegitimate and irregular forms, as will be shown below.
(3) Horum autem modorum cantionum modum excellentissimum esse pensamus; quare, si excellentissima excellentissimis digna sunt, ut superius est probatum, illa que excellentissimo sunt digna vulgari, modo excellentissimo digna sunt, et per consequens in cantionibus pertractanda. (3) Of all these forms, however, I hold that the canzone form is far and away the most excellent; and so, if excellent things are worthy of the excellent, as was proved above, those subjects that are worthy of the most excellent vernacular are also worthy of the most excellent form, and, in consequence, are to be treated in the canzone.
(4) Quod autem modus cantionum sit talis ut dictum est, pluribus potest rationibus indagari. (4) That the canzone form is everything I have said can be shown using a number of arguments.
(5) Prima quidem, quia, cum quicquid versificamur sit cantio, sole cantiones hoc vocabulum sibi sortite sunt: quod nunquam sine vetusta provisione processit. (5) First, that although everything composed in verse involves song, only canzoni have had that term allotted to them - which could not have happened without ancient authority.
(6) Adhuc: quicquid per se ipsum efficit illud ad quod factum est, nobilius esse videtur quam quod extrinseco indiget: sed cantiones per se totum quod debent efficiunt, quod ballate non faciunt (indigent enim plausoribus, ad quos edite sunt); ergo cantiones nobiliores ballatis esse sequitur extimandas, et per consequens nobilissimum aliorum esse modum illarum, cum nemo dubitet quin ballate sonitus nobilitate modi excellant. (6) Further, everything that brings about unaided the purpose for which it was created is seen as more noble than that which requires outside help; and canzoni do everything that they need to do unaided, unlike ballate - for those need dancers, for whom they were written in the first place. It follows, therefore, that canzoni are to be deemed more noble than ballate; and, as a result, their form is the most noble of all, since no one doubts that ballate excel sonnets in point of nobility of form.
(7) Preterea: illa videntur nobiliora esse que conditori suo magis honoris afferunt: sed cantiones magis afferunt suis conditoribus quam ballate; igitur nobiliores sunt, et per consequens modus earum nobilissimus aliorum. (7) Moreover, those things are seen as more noble that bring greater honour to those who create them; but canzoni bring more honour to their creators than ballate; therefore they are more noble, and, in consequence, theirs is the noblest form of all.
(8) Preterea: que nobilissima sunt karissime conservantur: sed inter ea que cantata sunt cantiones karissime conservantur, ut constat visitantibus libros; ergo cantiones nobilissime sunt, et per consequens modus earum nobilissimus est. (8) Furthermore, the noblest things are preserved with the greatest care; but, among the things that are sung, canzoni are preserved the most carefully, as is clear to anyone who looks at books; therefore, canzoni are most noble, and theirs is the noblest of forms.
(9) Ad hec: in artificiatis illud est nobilissimum quod totam comprehendit artem: cum igitur ea que cantantur artificiata existant et in solis cantionibus ars tota comprehendatur, cantiones nobilissime sunt, et sic modus earum nobilissimus aliorum. Quod autem tota comprehendatur in cantionibus ars cantandi poetice, in hoc palatur, quod quicquid artis reperitur in omnibus aliis, et in cantionibus reperitur; sed non convertitur hoc. (9) Yet further, among the products of human ingenuity, the noblest are those that most fully exploit the technical possibilities of the art; since things that are sung are products of human ingenuity, and only in canzoni are the technical possibilities of the art fully exploited, so canzoni are most noble, and the noblest of poetic forms. That the technical possibilities of singing in poetry are fully exploited only in canzoni is apparent from the fact that whatever features of the art are found in other forms are also found in canzoni - but the converse is not true.
(10) Signum autem horum que dicimus promptum in conspectu habetur; nam quicquid de cacuminibus illustrium capitum poetantium profluxit ad labia, in solis cantionibus invenitur. (10) Proof of what I am arguing is readily available: for whatever has flowed down to the lips of illustrious poets from the loftiest reaches of their minds is found only in canzoni.
(11) Quare ad propositum patet quod ea que digna sunt vulgari altissimo in cantionibus tractanda sunt. (11) So for our purposes it is plain that whatever is worthy of the highest form of the vernacular should be treated in canzoni.