De vulgari eloquentia (II, xiii, 1-13)

(1) Rithimorum quoque relationi vacemus, nichil de rithimo secundum se modo tractantes: proprium enim eorum tractatum in posterum prorogamus, cum de mediocri poemate intendemus. (1) Let us now deal with the relationship of rhymes, though without, for the moment, saying anything about rhyme itself; for I have postponed a more detailed treatment of that subject to the section in which I deal with the middle level of poetic style.
(2) In principio igitur huius capituli quedam resecanda videntur. Unum est stantia sine rithimo, in qua nulla rithimorum habitudo attenditur; et huiusmodi stantiis usus est Arnaldus Danielis frequentissime, velut ibi: Sem fos Amor de joi donar; et nos dicimus Al poco iorno. Aliud est stantia cuius omnia carmina eundem rithimum reddunt, in qua superfluum esse constat habitudinem querere. Sic proinde restat circa rithimos mixtos tantum debere insisti. (2) It will, therefore, be useful to anticipate some elements of the discussion at the beginning of this chapter. One of these is the unrhymed stanza, in which no organisation according to rhyme occurs; Arnaut Daniel used this kind of stanza very frequently, as in his Se.m fos Amor de ioi donar; [If Love were to me as broad in granting joy] and I also used it in Al poco giorno. [To the short day...] Another is the stanza in which every line ends with the same rhyme, and in this case it would obviously be superfluous to enquire further into the stanza's organisation. So all that remains is the obligation to pursue the analysis of stanzas with more than one rhyme.
(3) Et primo sciendum est quod in hoc amplissimam sibi licentiam fere omnes assumunt; et ex hoc maxime totius armonie dulcedo intenditur. (3) First of all you must know that almost all poets grant themselves a considerable degree of licence in this matter, and this is mostly what they aim at to achieve the sweetness of the overall harmony.
(4) Sunt etenim quidam qui non omnes quandoque desinentias carminum rithimantur in eadem stantia, sed easdem repetunt, sive rithimantur, in aliis, sicut fuit Gottus Mantuanus, qui suas multas et bonas cantiones nobis oretenus intimavit. Hic semper in stantia unum carmen incomitatum texebat, quod clavem vocabat. Et sicut de uno licet, licet etiam de duobus, et forte de pluribus. (4) There are some, indeed, who do not always rhyme all the endings within a single stanza, but repeat them or rhyme them in later stanzas. One who did this was Gotto of Mantua, who recited many of his excellent canzoni to me in person; he always wove one line with no matching rhyme into every stanza, and called it the key-line. And what can be done with one line can also be done with two, and perhaps with more.
(5) Quidam alii sunt, et fere omnes cantionum inventores, qui nullum in stantia carmen incomitatum relinquunt quin sibi rithimi concrepantiam reddant, vel unius vel plurium. (5) There are certain others, perhaps the large majority of writers of canzoni, who avoid leaving any line in a stanza unaccompanied, but always provide it with the accord offered by rhyme, whether in one line or several.
(6) Et quidam diversos faciunt esse rithimos eorum que post diesim carmina sunt a rithimis eorum que sunt ante; quidam vero non sic, sed desinentias anterioris stantie inter postera carmina referentes intexunt. Sepissime tamen hoc fit in desinentia primi posteriorum, quam plerique rithimantur ei que est priorum posterioris; quod non aliud esse videtur quam quedam ipsius stantie concatenatio pulcra. (6) And some make the rhymes in the lines that come after the diesis differ from those in the lines that come before it, while others do not do this, but instead carry the endings from the first part of the stanza forward, and weave them into the later lines. This is most often done, however, with the ending of the first line of the latter portion of the stanza, which the majority of writers rhyme with the last line of the earlier portion; and thus they achieve what is clearly none other than a beautiful linking together of the stanza as a whole.
(7) De rithimorum quoque habitudine, prout sunt in fronte vel in cauda, videtur omnis optata licentia concedenda: pulcerrime tamen se habent ultimorum carminum desinentie si cum rithimo in silentium cadant. (7) As for the organisation of rhymes, in so far as they are used in the frons or the cauda it seems that as much liberty as may be desired must be allowed; but the effect will be particularly beautiful if the endings of the last lines cause the stanza to fall silent on a rhyme.
(8) In pedibus vero cavendum est; et habitudinem quandam servatam esse invenimus. Et discretionem facientes, dicimus quod pes vel pari vel impari metro completur; et utrobique comitata et incomitata desinentia esse potest. Nam, in pari metro nemo dubitat; in alio vero, si quis dubius est, recordetur ea que diximus in preinmediato capitulo de trisillabo, quando pars existens endecasillabi, velut eco respondet. (8) In the pedes, however, some caution is required; for here we find that some rules of organisation are to be observed. And, making a distinction, I say that a pes may be made up of an even or an odd number of lines, and that in either case its endings may or may not be matched with rhymes. No one will doubt that this is true for an even number of lines; but if anyone doubts that it is also true in the opposite case, let him recall what I said in the immediately preceding chapter about the trisyllable, when, as part of a hendecasyllable, it answers like an echo.
(9) Et si in altero pedum exsortem rithimi desinentiam esse contingat, omnimode in altero sibi instauratio fiat. Si vero quelibet desinentia in altero pede rithimi consortium habeat, in altero prout libet referre vel innovare desinentias licet, vel totaliter, vel in parte, dumtaxat precedentium ordo servetur in totum; puta, si extreme desinentie trimetri, hoc est prima et ultima, concrepabunt in primo pede, sic secundi extremas desinentias convenit concrepare; et qualem se in primo media videt, comitatam quidem vel incomitatam, talis in secundo resurgat; et sic de aliis pedibus est servandum. (9) And if there should be an ending lacking a rhyme in the first foot, a matching rhyme should at all costs be provided for it in the second. If, however, every ending in one foot has its matching rhyme, in the other you may repeat the endings or introduce new ones, as you please, either completely or partially, as long as the order of the foregoing rhymes is maintained throughout. Thus, if the outside endings of a three-line pes, that is, those of the first and third lines, are matched with each other, then the equivalent endings in the second pes must also match; and however the middle line of the first is treated, whether provided with a rhyme or not, it must re-appear likewise in the second - and the same scheme must be followed in any other type of pes.
(10) In versibus quoque fere semper hac lege perfruimur; et 'fere' dicimus, quia propter concatenationem prenotatam et combinationem desinentiarum ultimarum quandoque ordinem iam dictum perverti contingit. (10) Finally, the same rule is almost always followed in the versus; though I say 'almost' because, owing to the linking together mentioned above, and to the matching of the final line endings, the order that I have described is sometimes found to be subverted.
(11) Preterea nobis bene convenire videtur ut, que cavenda sunt circa rithimos, huic appendamus capitulo, cum in isto libro nil ulterius de rithimorum doctrina tangere intendamus. (11) Besides all this, it seems to me most appropriate to add to this chapter a note on what to beware of when using rhyme, since I do not intend to return to the theory of rhyme as a subject anywhere in the present book.
(12) Tria ergo sunt que circa rithimorum positionem potiri dedecet aulice poetantem: nimia scilicet eiusdem rithimi repercussio, nisi forte novum aliquid atque intentatum artis hoc sibi preroget; ut nascentis militie dies, qui cum nulla prerogativa suam indignatur preferire dietam; hoc etenim nos facere nisi sumus ibi, Amor, tu vedi ben che questa donna. Secundum vero est ipsa inutilis equivocatio, que semper sententie quicquam derogare videtur. Et tertium, rithimorum asperitas, nisi forte sit lenitati permixta; nam lenium asperorumque rithimorum mixtura ipsa tragedia nitescit. (12) There are, then, three ways of placing rhymes that are inappropriate for a poet in the high style: one is hammering on the same rhyme, unless perhaps he thereby claims for himself something new and previously unattempted in the art; then the poet is like a knight on the day of his dubbing, who scorns to let it pass without some special exploit. This is what I tried to do here: Amor, to vedi ben che questa donna; [Love, you see well that this lady] The second thing to avoid is that superfluous kind of rhyme called 'equivocal', which always seems to detract to some extent from meaning; and the third is the use of harsh-sounding rhymes, unless they be mixed with gentle-sounding ones - for in fact it is the mingling of harsh and gentle rhymes that gives tragedy its splendour.
(13) Et hec de arte, prout habitudinem respicit, tanta sufficiant. (13) And let this be enough about technique, as far as it concerns the organization of the stanza.