De vulgari eloquentia (II, ix, 1-6)

(1) Quia, ut dictum est, cantio est coniugatio stantiarum, ignorato quid sit stantia, necesse est cantionem ignorare; nam ex diffinientium cognitione diffiniti resultat cognitio; et ideo consequenter de stantia est agendum, ut scilicet vestigemus quid ipsa sit, et quid per eam intelligere volumus. (1) Since, as I have said, a canzone is a connected series of stanzas, those who do not know what a stanza is must also fail to understand a canzone, for the understanding of a thing that requires definition flows from familiarity with the elements that compose it; and so, in consequence, I must now discuss the stanza, by enquiring exactly what it may be and just what we mean when we use the term.
(2) Et circa hoc sciendum est quod hoc vocabulum per solius artis respectum inventum est, videlicet ut in quo tota cantionis ars esset contenta, illud diceretur stantia -- hoc est mansio capax, sive receptaculum -- totius artis. Nam, quemadmodum cantio est gremium totius sententie, sic stantia totam artem ingremiat; nec licet aliquid artis sequentibus arrogare, sed solam artem antecedentis induere. (2) And about this you must know that this word was coined solely for the purpose of discussing poetic technique, so that the object in which the whole art of the canzone was enshrined should be called a stanza, that is, a capacious storehouse or receptacle for the art in its entirety. For just as the canzone is the lap of the whole of its subject-matter, so the stanza enlaps its whole technique; and the later stanzas of the poem should never aspire to add any new technical device, but should only dress themselves in the same garb as the first.
(3) Per quod patet quod ipsa de qua loquimur erit congrematio, sive compages, omnium eorum que cantio sumit ab arte; quibus divaricatis, quam querimus descriptio innotescet. (3) So it will be clear that that of which we speak will be the enlapment or frame of all the technical principles on which the canzone draws; and, when we have defined these, the description we seek will stand out clearly.
(4) Tota igitur ars cantionis circa tria videtur consistere: primo, circa cantus divisionem; secundo, circa partium habitudinem; tertio, circa numerum carminum et sillabarum. (4) The whole technique of the canzone, then, is plainly based on these three principles: first, the articulation of the melody, second, the organisation of the parts, and third, the number of lines and syllables.
(5) De rithimo vero mentionem non facimus, quia de propria cantionis arte non est. Licet enim in qualibet stantia rithimos innovare et eosdem reiterare ad libitum; quod, si de propria cantionis arte rithimus esset, minime liceret: quod dictum est. Si quid autem rithimi servare interest huius quod est ars, illud comprehenditur ibi cum dicimus 'partium habitudinem'. (5) I make no mention of rhyme here, because it is not exclusive to the technique of the canzone. For it is permissible to introduce new rhymes into any stanza, or to repeat those already used according to choice; which, if rhyme belonged only to canzone technique, would scarcely be allowable - as I have said. If there are aspects of the use of rhyme that are relevant to the technique under discussion, they will be included when I discuss the organisation of parts.
(6) Quare sic colligere possumus ex predictis diffinientes, et dicere, stantiam esse sub certo cantu et habitudine, limitatam carminum et sillabarum compagem. (6) So from all that has now been said we can assemble the elements of a definition, and say that a stanza is a coherent arrangement of lines and syllables governed by a particular melody and a clearly defined organisation.