Centuries of progress (and colonisation) have drastically changed the way the Maltese Islands look and feel, but if there’s one thing that’s barely recognisable, it’s how they talk.
Sure, you might already know this if you’ve ever heard your bużnanna use Maltese words you never knew existed, but get ready to take this to its most glorious, quasi-fantasy-series extreme.
In a post shared to logophile Facebook page Kelmet il-Malti, a poem on Malta from 1791 shows a barely recognisable language.
In fact, from the get-go, it pretty much looks like some derivation of The Lord of the Rings’ Elvish language.
Of course, local linguists are more than familiar with this derivation of Maltese… and it didn’t take long for context – and translations – to emerge
As the person who originally posted the extract explained (and credited to Denis Darmanin), the 12 verses are actually an extract from Malte Par Un Voyageur Français, a book published towards the end of the 18th century.
The book, it turns out, was written by French politician François-Emmanuel Guignard de Saint-Priest and dedicated to Grandmaster De Rohan. Back then more than ever, our tiny islands’ turbulent history and strategic position was the subject of many a poem and song, with this particular book talking about it all in a beautiful – and quite frankly nearly unrecognisable – language.
Arab letters like ع ,ق ,ح ,ش ,ج appear in the text, and soon enough, readers managed to decipher even the most alien-looking words. The result? Glorious, poignant poetry.
If you’re looking for a translation of the 1791 poem, here it is.
Kudos to Facebook users and logophiles Drinu Camilleri, Emmanuel Bonnici and Leli Forte for providing the much-needed translations in the comments under the post.
Tliet għanjiet bil-Malti
Min jitma fit-tama
It-tama tqarraq bih,
Jagħmel ir-riħ fil-bomblu
Jaħseb li siefer bih.
Smajt l’inti tarbit l-imħabba:
Għidli fl-imħabba xi ġralek?
Ejja tħaddet għommok miegħi,
Għax naħseb jiena ġrali bħalek.
Għadira li tixrob minnha,
Nitolbok la ddardarhiex,
Għax imur żmien u jiġi ieħor,
Tfittixha, ma ssibhiex.