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Lapo Lamberti, Cucco di Valfreduccio, Lippo Vannucci and numberless more petty poets of different parts of Tuscany are stili known to the inquirers into the origin of our langiiage. The Tuscans, notwithstanding, were then so far from pretending to the primacy in language, that even in the year 1299 one Rustigielo of Pisa wrote in the Venetian dialect The travels of Marco Polo, as they were dictated to him in the prisons of Genoa bj- that famous traveller; and even some j’ears after Petrarch, a Roman author wrote the life of the renowned Cola di Rienzo in the language that he had learnt from his nurse. The life of Cola di Rienzo I cannot fínd, therefore shall I only give a short specimen of Marco Polo *s language:
Qui comenza il prolasso del libro chiamado de la distinzione del mondo.
Vui signori imperadori duchi marchesi conti e kavalieri, ecc. (i).
Copies of Marco Polo ’s manuscript multiplied with great rapidity, though written in that uncouth dialect and manner, and quickly spread into ali parts of Italy and even of France and Germany. If the Venetians had had at that time many such voluminous and pleasing writers as Polo was, they would have had a probable chance of giving their language to the Italians; but they were so much taken up with their conquests and commerce in the East, that they missed this honour; and while Polo was dictating his prose to Rustigielo, Brunetto Latini of Florence writ many things in verse, that charmed the ears of his contemporaries, and collected in ten capitolos many of the proverbs and sayings of his time, to which he gave the whimsical title of Pataffio. This work obscured the little splendour of the petty preceding poets of ever>’ other Italian province, and had power enough to keep the Italians neutral and imresolved on the choice of the dialect that was to be the general standard of writing.
(i) Fino alle parole: «et in quel tempo iera in una zitade» [Ed.].