Il-Kantilena is a Maltese poem. This, in itself, would have made me curious to investigate further. That it is also the oldest extant text in the language only added some mystery. And, once these two points were fixed in my mind, a look at the poem was enough to make me want to read it again and again. It is, in short, a discussion on fate, love, and the variability of life.
Firstly, a link to the Wikipedia entry for this.
Secondly, perhaps a modified English translation to make it more readable:
Witness my predicament, my friends, 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,
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 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 fell, my edifice, which I had been building for so long.
And so, my edifice subsided, and I shall have to build it up again,
You change it to the site that suits it
Who changes his place, changes his fate!
for each land has its own features;
there is white land and there is black land, and red,
But above all, what you want from it is a fruit.
But now, to the meaning of this poem — I have to say, it is beautiful in the extreme, and while a direct reading is possible it also works perfectly in allegory. That, I believe, is also the accepted description of the story that the poet is bringing forward.
Beyond that, however, for me the very way that this story is described in is powerful. That was the first thing that made me like it — and the ending of the second stanza is beautiful for the poet uses clever technical jargon (I would say though also “common sense” applies) but yet speaks of love.
Read it, enjoy it, remember it.