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

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

Lyrics submitted by SongMeanings, edited by sokorny

El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could) song meanings
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  • +7
    General CommentI'd rather be free
    I'd rather be in control
    I'd rather be natural
    I'd rather be real

    I'm beautiful and I want to escape the oppression of time, but its reality is profoundly sad
    inkoon May 21, 2009   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationI believe it is about power, oppression, futility, despair, and freedom. Almost everyone who has posted a comment in the last 7 years recognises that hammers strike nails, but no one has mentioned that sparrows eat snails, and that forests eventually overcome streets. Power. Winners. Losers.
    Has anyone reading this heard "When you're a nail, all the world is a hammer, and when you're a hammer all the world is nails." Everyone recognises that it is better to be the one with power, but do the song's listeners also hear that even the oppressors, for all their power, are not free? Oppression takes time and energy to maintain. Could a driver achieve toil from a slave without force and threat? Can the cat expect to catch the mouse if she is not prowling it? Will the shepherd get wool off the sheep if he doesn't get out there and keep track of them? Better to hold power, best to have freedom.
    Swans symbolize people who are very rare. Swans are the real winners. Most people are either oppressed or oppressors. But even the oppressors are not free. They have locked themselves to the unending occupation of persecuting their victims or subordinates, and it eats their lifetimes. They cannot disengage, least their captives escape. They forge lifetimes of chains for others to wear, but inadvertantly also chain themselves to the lifelong task of oppression. The real winners are the swans. Freedom.
    Spothon November 03, 2009   Link
  • +2
    My OpinionPersonally, i believe it is about oppression. The narrator is saying that he would much rather better himself. "I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail, yes i would, if i could" he wants to better himself but he can't. Each line brings its own special meaning, and everyone has their own decision. The third line "I'd rather be a hammer than a nail, yes i would, if i only could" To me here it is representing the work force and the fact that the managers are always going to be in a place of higher authority. They are pointing out the disadvantages to Globalization and the growing industry within the world.
    LeeStrongon January 25, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think its about someone's desire to leave the modern world and live a simpler life and commune with nature, etc. but he can't because of responsibilities, etc. The "man ... grows old every day" is the singer - trapped by the restrictions society has put on him. He'd rather be a hammer (a doer who has control over his actions/destiny) and not the nail (and feeling powerless by others). He'd rather be a sparrow (free as a bird) and not a snail (crawling and eking out a survival). The swan is the perfect symbol of nature. He is striving to be that.
    giuliamon March 27, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think the narrator talk about freedom and world. When he sad "I'd rather be.." he want a feel like a bird. And He is many times sad, "If I.." because he cant choose anyone, so always say "If I..".. Narrator, If he feel like nail, everything show to him like a hammer. And If he feel like hammer, he sees everything like a nail. And he sad "sparrow" actually almost all sparrow eat nails..
    Finally I think the narrator want to say, "What will you want to be, you cant free in this world.
    mehmetakifalpon May 07, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentActually, this song is about someone who is suffering, he is asking for help but he isn't getting help. He compares himself with a sufferer (nail, street, snail) but he would rather be the cause of the sufferer/not the sufferer (hammer, forest, sparrow)
    at the end he says:"i would rather feel the earth beneath my feet" (without a comparison with something else, referring to "tied to the ground", because he can't touch the ground with his feets.
    paxfilosoofon November 10, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail." "I'd rather feel the earth beneath my feet." It's a parable examining one's lot in life. He is being practical. Better to be the top of the food chain than the bottom. Better to have power than to be the powerless. Better to be practical than be a dreamer. "If I only could I surely would." He'll always be a dreamer.
    elh2780on June 10, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHe is trying to be the bigger of the two things. Either bigger, more free, more powerful. Great song.
    Tyler250on May 28, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think that this song is an attempt to portray the human desire for a stronger love. He wants to be more liberated, and seeks to be the strongest he can possibly be.
    djdubzon June 07, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti understaind that he'd rather be a forrest than a street (it sounds kinda ethnic, like mexican maybe, and eho wouldnt pick the forrest =o) ?) , but rather being a hammer than a nail? what an option???
    5raon August 11, 2002   Link

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