The poem "Cliffs" ("Irdumijiet") is part of a collection available online by the Maltese-Canadian writer, poet, and academic professor John P. Portelli. Written in 1973, and found on pages 40-41 (page 21 of the PDF) in the book linked above, it goes as follows (English translation from the original Maltese):

Take off oh friend the century of greed!
Distance yourself from the ennui and the noise of the 20th century!

You seem accustomed to the petty noise
and the unbridled haste of the cities!
You were struck by the mythological twilight of Dingli Cliffs!
Everyday, stuck right there to the mythology, there is me, oh friend,
there I present audaciously my face
to the scimitar moon
to the mischievous steeple
to the bell half sleeping
which little by little
lulls me asleep
in my weird, reserved bed!
All this oh friend struck you and inspired you!

I feel my whole life drown in the mythological silence, friend,
in this mysterious emptiness which ends
only God knows where.
Yes, oh friend, I am drowning.

Is there a particular mythological significance to Dingli Cliffs? I know zero about Maltese mythology, but the word "mythological" ("mitologiku") appears three times in this poem, and it seems like some of the phrases in the middle (scimitar moon, mischievous steeple, bell half sleeping, weird reserved bed) might be references to some local story.

1 Answer 1


Today I went to visit the Dingli Cliffs, and I asked a Maltese tour guide whether there's any local mythology specific to that location.

She told me about the theory that Gozo (the second island of Malta) was the home of Calypso in the Odyssey, and about a local story that Filfla (a tiny uninhabited island visible from Dingli) was created by a piece of mainland Malta, where there's now a large hollow in the ground to support the story, being scooped out and flung into the sea to create the island, but she wasn't aware of any mythological story specifically related to Dingli Cliffs.

This isn't definitive, and as the OP I probably won't accept it, but I thought it was worth posting as an answer, in lieu of any other information so far: it means that, if there is any specific mythological significance to the Dingli Cliffs, it's not well-known enough to be common knowledge among Maltese people, nor even to be part of the information given in professional tour guide training. So it's probably not the case that Portelli's poem was appealing to some common Maltese knowledge of local mythological significance of Dingli, and perhaps rather that he felt the location was evocative and might put one in a frame of mind to think about mythology.

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