Il Cantilena

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Il-Kantaliena

Il-Kantilena is the oldest known literary text in the Maltese language.[1] It dates from the 15th century (no later than 1485, the death of its author, and probably from the 1470s) but was not found until 1966 or 1968 by Prof. Godfrey Wettinger and Fr. M. Fsadni (OP). The poem is attributed to Pietru Caxaro, and was recorded by Caxaro's nephew, Brandano, in his notarial register (Dec. 1533–May 1563).

Although written in Maltese, in Latin script, it was a very early Maltese that had not yet been influenced much by Italian or English, and is thus an example of historic Maltese.

Text[edit]




  • Original orthography

Xideu il cada ye gireni tale nichadithicum
Mensab fil gueri uele nisab fo homorcom
Calb mehandihe chakim soltan ui le mule
Bir imgamic rimitne betiragin mucsule
Fen hayran al garca nenzel fi tirag minzeli
Nitla vu nargia ninzil deyem fil bachar il hali.

Huakit hi mirammiti lili zimen nibni
Mectatilix mihallimin me chitali tafal morchi
fen timayt insib il gebel sib tafal morchi
vackit hi mirammiti.

Huakit by mirammiti Nizlit hi li sisen
Mectatilix li mihallimin ma kitatili li gebel
fen tumayt insib il gebel sib tafal morchi
Huakit thi mirammiti lili zimen nibni
Huec ucakit hi mirammiti vargia ibnie
biddilihe inte il miken illi yeutihe
Min ibidill il miken ibidil i vintura
haliex liradi ’al col xibir sura
hemme ard bayad v hemme ard seude et hamyra
Hactar min hedann heme tred mine tamara.

  • Modern orthography

Xidew il-qada, ja ġirieni, talli nħadditkom,
Ma nsab fil-weri u la nsab f’għomorkom
Qalb m’għandha ħakem, sultan u la mula
Bir imgħammiq irmietni, b’turġien muħsula,
Fejn ħajran għall-għarqa, ninżel f’taraġ minżeli
Nitla’ u nerġa’ ninżel dejjem fil-baħar il-għoli.

Waqgħet hi, imrammti, l’ili żmien nibni,
Ma ħtatlix mgħallmin, ’mma qatagħli tafal merħi;
Fejn tmajt insib il-ġebel, sibt tafal merħi;
Waqgħet hi, imrammti.

Waqgħet hi, imrammti, niżżlet hi s-sisien,
Ma ħtatlix l-imgħallmin, ’mma qatagħli l-ġebel;
Fejn tmajt insib il-ġebel, sibt tafal merħi;
Waqgħet hi, imrammti, l’ili żmien nibni.
U hekk waqgħet hi, imrammti! w erġa’ ibniha!
Biddilha inti l-imkien illi jewtiha;
Min ibiddel l-imkien ibiddel il-vintura;
Għaliex l-iradi għal kull xiber sura:
Hemm art bajda, w hemm art sewda u ħamra.
Aktar minn hedawn hemm trid minnha tmarra.

  • النص بحروف عربية: Arabic Transcription

اشهدوا القضاء|القعدة يا جيراني ,تعالوا نحدّثكم,
ما انصاب في الواري ولا انصاب في عمركم
قلب ما عندهاش حاكم, سلطان ولا مولى
بير معمّق رماتني بدرجان مقسولة
فين حيران عالغرقة, ننزل في درج منزالي
نطلع ونرجع ننزل دايم في البحر العالي

وقعت هي مرمّتي, ليلي زمان نبني,
ما خطاتليش المعلمين أما قطعلي طَفَل مرخي
فين طمعت نصيب الجبل, صبت طَفَل مرخي
وقعت هي مرمّتي

وقعت هي مرمّتي, نزلت هي السّيسان
ما خطاتليش المعلمين أما قطعلي الجبل
فين طمعت نصيب الجبل, صبت طفل مرخي
وقعت هي مرمّتي, ليلي زمان نبني,
وهكّ وقعت هي, مرمّتي وارجع ابنيها
بدّلها انتِ للمكان اللّي يواتيها
من يبدل المكان يبدل ال"فنتورة"
علاش الأراضي على كل شبر صورة
فمّ (ثمّة) أرض بيضاء وفمّ أرض سوداء وحمراء
أكثر من هاذون فمّ تريد منها ثمرها| ثمرة

Approximate English translation[edit]

Witness my predicament, my friends (neighbours), as I shall relate it to you:
[What] never has there been, neither in the past, nor in your lifetime,
A [similar] heart, ungoverned, without lord or king (sultan),
That threw me down a well, with broken stairs
Where, yearning to drown, I descend the steps of my downfall,
I climb back up and down again, always faced with high seas.

It (she) fell, my building, its foundations collapsed;
It was not the builders’ fault, but the rock gave way,
Where I had hoped to find rock, I found loose clay
It (she) fell, my edifice, (that) which I had been building for so long.[2]

And so, my edifice subsided, and I shall have to build it up again,
You change it to the site that suits her/it
Who changes his place, changes his fate!
for each (piece of land) has its own shape (features);
there is white land and there is black land, and red
But above all, (what) you want from it is a fruit.[3]

Notes[edit]

This text contains many sorts-Arabic morphemes (word-roots). The only Romance words are vintura "luck", sometimes translated into English as fate, and et, deriving from Latin which means "and".

In general, early Maltese texts contain very little non-Semitic vocabulary; even in later texts, poetry tends to use more Semitic vocabulary than general language use.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Friggieri (1994:59)
  2. ^ See Mark Montebello, "Between rectitude and incongruity: The chiastic structure of the Cantilena (Rabat, Malta: Faraxa Publishing House, 2016), p. 29.
  3. ^ http://melitensiawth.com/incoming/Index/The%20Arabs%20in%20Malta/1975Approaches%20to%20medieval%20Malta%20Luttrell.pdf pp. 66-7.
  4. ^ http://melitensiawth.com/incoming/Index/The%20Arabs%20in%20Malta/1975Approaches%20to%20medieval%20Malta%20Luttrell.pdf p. 66-7.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Friggieri, Oliver (1994), "Main Trends in the History of Maltese Literature", Neohelicon, 21 (2): 59–69, doi:10.1007/BF02093244 

External links[edit]