De vulgari eloquentia (II, v, 1-8)

(1) De gravitate sententiarum, vel satis dixisse videmur, vel saltim totum quod operis est nostri; quapropter ad superbiam carminum festinemus. (1) It seems to me that enough has now been said as to the gravity of subject-matter, or at least as much as is relevant for the purpose of my work, so I shall move quickly onto the magnificence of the verses.
(2) Circa quod sciendum quod predecessores nostri diversis carminibus usi sunt in cantionibus suis, quod et moderni faciunt; sed nullum adhuc invenimus in carmine sillabicando endecadem transcendisse, nec a trisillabo descendisse. Et licet trisillabo carmine atque endecasillabo et omnibus intermediis cantores latii usi sint, pentasillabum, eptasillabum et endecasillabum in usu frequentiori habentur; et post hec trisillabum ante alia. (2) On this topic it must first be realised that our predecessors used lines of varying lengths in their canzoni, as do our contemporaries; but I have not yet found any case in which the number of syllables in a single line exceeds eleven or falls short of three. And although Italian poets have used trisyllabic lines, and hendecasyllables, and every type of line in between, the most popular have been the lines of five, seven, and eleven syllables, with the trisyllable most favoured among those that remain.
(3) Quorum omnium endecasillabum videtur esse superbius, tam temporis occupatione, quam capacitate sententie, constructionis, et vocabulorum; quorum omnium specimen magis multiplicatur in illo, ut manifeste apparet; nam ubicunque ponderosa multiplicantur, multiplicatur et pondus. (3) Of all these lines the most splendid is clearly the hendecasyllable, both for its measured movement and for the scope it offers for subject matter, constructions, and vocabulary; and the beauty of all these features is most greatly magnified by this metre, as will be readily apparent: for whenever things of value are magnified, their value itself is magnified also.
(4) Et hoc omnes doctores perpendisse videntur, cantiones illustres principiantes ab illo; ut Gerardus de B., Ara ausirez encabalitz cantars. Quod carmen, licet decasillabum videatur, secundum rei veritatem endecasillabum est; nam due consonantes extreme non sunt de sillaba precedente; et licet propriam vocalem non habeant, virtutem sillabe non tamen amittunt; signum autem est quod rithimus ibi una vocali perficitur; quod esse non posset nisi virtute alterius ibi subintellecte. Rex Navarre: De fin amor si vient sen et bonté, ubi, si consideretur accentus et eius causa, endecasillabum esse constabit. Guido Guinizelli: Al cor gentile repara sempre Amore. Iudex de Columpnis de Messana: Amor, che lungiamente m'ài menato. Renaldus de Aquino: Per fino amore vo sì letamente. Cinus Pistoriensis: Non spero che già mai per mia salute. Amicus eius: Amor, che movi tua vertù da cielo. (4) And all the best poets seem to have accepted this, and have begun their illustrious canzoni with a hendecasyllable. Thus Giraut de B.: Ara ausirez encabalitz cantarz [Now you shall hear first-class songs] (Though this line may appear to have only ten syllables, it is, in fact, a hendecasyllable, for the two final consonants do not belong to the preceding syllable, and although they have no vowel of their own, they do not lose their value as syllables on that account. The proof of this is that here the rhyme is completed with a single vowel, which would not be possible except by virtue of another whose presence here is understood.) The King of Navarre: De fin amor si vient sen et bonté [From true love come kowledge and goodness] (Here, if we take stress and its motivation into account, it will be clear that this is a hendecasyllable.) Guido Guinizzelli: Al cor gentil repara sempre amore; Delle Colonne, the judge of Messina: Amor, che lungiamente m'hai menato; [Love, who long have led me] Rinaldo dAquino: Perfino amor vo sì letamente; [I go so happily for true love's sake] Cino da Pistoia: Non spero che giamai per mia salute; [I have no hope that ever for my benefit] and his friend: Amor, che movi tua virtù da cielo. [Love, who send your power down from heaven]
(5) Et licet hoc quod dictum est, celeberrimum carmen, ut dignum est, videatur omnium aliorum, si eptasillabi aliqualem societatem assumat, dummodo principatum optineat, clarius magisque sursum superbire videtur. Sed hoc ulterius elucidandum remaneat. (5) And although this line I have been discussing is rightly seen as the most celebrated of all, should it enter into a kind of co-operative bond with the seven-syllable line, or heptasyllable (where it still retains, as it were, the senior partnership), it will appear yet more exalted and distinguished in its pride.
(6) Et dicimus eptasillabum sequi illud quod maximum est in celebritate. Post hoc pentasillabum, et deinde trisillabum ordinamus. Neasillabum vero, quia triplicatum trisillabum videbatur, vel nunquam in honore fuit, vel propter fastidium obsoluit. (6) But let me leave this point to be developed later on. And I say that the heptasyllable comes immediately after this line, which reaches the highest peak of celebrity. After this I would place the five-syllable line, or pentasyllable, and the trisyllable. The nine-syllable line, on the otherhand, being a kind of threefold trisyllable, has either never been highly thought of or has dropped out of use because it was found boring.
(7) Parisillaba vero, propter sui ruditatem, non utimur nisi raro: retinent enim naturam suorum numerorum; qui numeris imparibus, quemadmodum materia forme, subsistunt. (7) Lines with an even number of syllables are only used rarely today because of their lack of sophistication; for they retain the nature of the numbers that govern them, which are inferior to odd numbers as material is to form.
(8) Et sic, recolligentes predicta, endecasillabum videtur esse superbissimum carmen; et hoc est quod querebamus. Nunc autem restat investigandum de constructionibus elatis et fastigiosis vocabulis; et demum, fustibus torquibusque paratis, promissum fascem, hoc est cantionem, quo modo viere quis debeat instruemus. (8) And so, to recapitulate what has been said, the hendecasyllable may be seen as the most splendid of lines; and this is what we were trying to determine. Now, however, we must still explore the question of lofty constructions and refined vocabulary; and then, once the sticks and the cords have been gathered, I shall explain how our promised bundle, the canzone, is to be bound together.