Sunday, July 4, 2010

The National Anthem of Malta

The Mediterranean island nation of Malta's anthem is"Innu Malti" (Hymn of Malta). First performed in 1923, it became the national anthem in 1945. The author of the anthem's lyrics, Dun Karm Psaila, (Malta's national poet), was originally comissioned to write a school hymn to already-existing music. He thought of the idea of a national anthem in the form of a prayer, to bind together the political parties and the country with the commonality of prayer. The anthem was given English lyrics later by May Butcher.

The anthem was given English lyrics later by May Butcher, but the spirit and original meaning of Dum Karm's lyrics is missing somewhat, so I also provide a translation of the Maltese l
yrics.

The anthem composer Robert Samut was born at the Lion House in Floriana, Malta. He studied medicine at the Royal University of Malta and at Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.B. and Ch.M. and also obtained a medal for the exceptional ability in anatomy. From his very youth he had shown musical inclinations, and at one time had wanted to study music, but his father did not approve, and consequently Robert continued his career in medicine, following in the footsteps of two elder brothers, who were already well known doctors.

Back in Edinburgh he had once been asked to sing the Maltese Anthem, and the fact that Malta did not have one, induced him to do something about it. He therefore wrote some simple notes, which the pressure of work made him forget. Then one day in the early 1920’s having been asked by Dr. Albert Laferla, the then Director of Elementary Schools, to compose a h
ymn for school children, Robert remembered those simple notes, and used them to compose the present hymn. Thus Samut became one of those who gave Malta its national identity.

Dr. Laferla then took that music to the National Poet Dun Karm who wrote the verses. It is reported that Dun Karm had stated that this was not the usual practice, as normally music was composed to the verses and not vice versa. Nevertheless a beautiful prayer to God from the Maltese people saw the light of day. The hymn was subsequently donated to the people of Malta.

Dun Karm Psaila was educated at the Seminary between the years 1885 and 1894 and then proceeded to study philosophy in 1888 and theology 1890 the University of Malta. He was ordained priest in 1894. From 1895 to 1921 he taught various subjects at the Seminary: Italian, Latin, English, arithmetic, geography, cosmography, ecclesiastical history and Christian archaeology. In 1921 he was appointed assistant librarian at the National Library of Malta and in 1923 directory of circulating libraries, a post he held till his retirement in 1936. In 1921, Albert Laferla, the director of education, asked Dun Karm to compose some verses to a music score by Robert Samut. The Innu Malti was sung for the first time in 1923. In 1941 it was officially designated the national anthem, a status confirmed by the Constitution at independence in 1964.

The stamp above features the composer, Robert Samut. Below is the lyricist Dun Karm.