El Condor Pasa – Simon & Garfunkel



I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail
Yes I would, if I could, I surely would

I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would

Chorus:    Away, I’d rather sail away
Like a swan that’s here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound
Its saddest sound

I’d rather be a forest than a street
Yes, I would, if I could, I surely would

I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet
Yes, I would, if I only could, I surely would

El Cóndor Pasa is an orchestral musical piece by a Peruvian composer, written in 1913 and based on traditional Andean music. Since then, a lot of versions of the melody have been produced, along with many sets of lyrics.and in 2004, Peru declared this song as part of the national cultural heritage

In 1965 Paul Simon heard for the first time a version of the melody in Paris, and in 1970, the Simon & Garfunkel duo covered that version, adding some English lyrics
The song, whose title means “The Condor Passes”, is a sad meditation on our limitations and deals with freedom and oppression, power and despair.

The singer longs to fly like a bird, a “sparrow” or a “swan.”, which means to be free, instead of being bound.
In a series of comparisons, the flying creatures appear superior to those “tied up to the ground”  such as snails… or humans.
Similarly, natural settings like a  “forest” are preferred to urban ones like a “street”,  and   the narrator  would like to touch the ground with his bare feet, to enjoy the contact.

When the speaker lets us know that he’d rather be a tyrant (“a hammer“) than a victim (“a nail”) I think  he chooses to be the person who causes suffering, instead of the sufferer,  just because  he wants to have  control over his own destiny and not a powerless creature in the hands of others
The repeated refrain: “If I could, I surely would “ suggests that this bird-like freedom is impossible, that’s why people continue to pine away and make “the saddest sound” over their impossible wishes.

Condor is the name for two species of New World vultures, deriving from the Quechua kuntur.
Andean condors are among the largest and longest-living birds on earth, and symbolize power, health and liberty for the people of Patagonia.
These huge birds can weigh up to 26 pounds, so in order to get around efficiently with that size, they prefer to roost high, up on the bare cliffs of the Andes, where they can catch a strong thermal updraft in the warm morning air. Under good conditions, the condor can fly as far as 300km in a single day, soaring as high as 16,400 feet.

A condor gliding overhead, swooping, circling, soaring, inspires great awe in the earthbound viewer. But then it passes.

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