Today 150 years ago, Malta’s national poet Dun Karm Psaila, who also penned the national anthem, was born.
Born Carmelo Psaila on 18th October 1871 in Ħaż-Żebbuġ, the priest, writer, and poet cemented his place in local literary history by producing a prolific amount of works on Maltese identity and in the Maltese language.
He’s known to many across the island, with his poems studied by all students at some point in their classrooms.
Dun Karm is probably best known for authoring the national anthem, L-Innu Malti (The Maltese Hymn), in 1922. At the time, Malta was passing through a national awakening and was on the road towards independence.
Spurred on by a melody from Robert Samut, the lyrics focus on the religious and patriotic currents that run through Malta.
It was not until 1941 that L-Innu Malta was made the official Maltese anthem, becoming the National Anthem in 1964 upon Malta’s independence.
The anthem had earned notoriety in the years before, particularly in 1945 when Maltese supporters at a football game sang out the tune after only the British national anthem was played. This incident has actually been immortalised in another poem from one of Malta’s most foremost literary figures, Ruzar Briffa.
However, when Dun Karm started out, he used to write his poems in Italian, like many other Maltese poets at the time.
This changed in 1912, as Dun Karm quickly stood out amid a herd of Maltese people who identified themselves as either British or Italian, using Maltese as his medium of creativity to showcase local identity.
His career went beyond poetry. Dun Karm was one of the founding members of the Għaqda tal-Kittieba tal-Malti, with Queen Elizabeth II even decorating him with the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1956 for his work in the field.
Dun Karm died on 13th October 1961, never actually witnessing the country become independent or L-Innu Malti becoming the national anthem.
And for those of you who don’t know it, here’s the national anthem:
Lil din l-art ħelwa, l-omm li tatna isimha,
Ħares, Mulej, kif dejjem int ħarist;
Ftakar li lilha bl-oħla dawl libbist.
Agħti kbir Alla, id-dehen lil min jaħkimha,
Rodd il-ħniena lis-Sid, saħħa ’l-ħaddiem;
Seddaq il-għaqda fil-Maltin u s-sliem
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