Birds in Music: La Golondrina (The Swallow)

Swallows, although tiny, are legendary in many cultures… Can you think of anything that makes them so?

How about the thousands of miles they must travel, between two separate homes?

Swallows, found throughout the world, are long-distance migrants, living its life across two different continents. To see a swallow is to see a bird that has taken (or is in the process of taking) a long journey to or away from another place. A swallow can conjure up feelings of being far away from where you belong, but also the joy of having a place (or state of mind) you can hope to return to one day. (This is also why you see swallows tattooed on sailors, or those who have traveled far from home… they are symbolic of long journey.)

This song, La Golondrina, is a sad and beautiful traditional song from Mexico based on this symbolism… it is a song of empathy for the poor swallow who can no longer go home, or has no more home to return to.

The inspiration to post this came after reading the “Song of the Swallows”, a children’s book about a boy who prepares for the swallows’ return by planting a garden for them. It was also winner of the 1950 Caldecott Medal for illustration. It is a great book to look up if you are interested in birds in children’s literature.

Please enjoy the song. The lyrics (and English translation) are written below.

Spanish

La Golondrina

Adonde irá veloz y fatigada
La golondrina que de aquí se va,
O si el viento se hallará extraviada
Buscando abrigo y no lo encontrará.
Junto a mi lecho le pondré su nido
En donde pueda la estación pasar;
También yo estoy en le región perdida
Oh cielo santo! y sin poder volar.

Dejé también mi patria idolatrada,
Esa mansión que me miró nacer,
Mi vida es hoy errante y angustiada
I ya no puedo a mi mansión volver.
Ave querida, amada peregrina,
Mi corazón al tuyo estrecharé,
Oiré tu canto, tierna golondrina,
Recordaré mi patria y lloraré.

English

The Swallow

Where will she go,
swift and weary
The swallow
that’s gone away from here,
If in the wind
she finds herself astray
Seeking shelter
and doesn’t find it?

Beside my bed
I’ll put her nest
where she can pass the season.
I am also
in the lost region
Oh, Holy Heaven!
and unable to fly.

I too left behind
my adored homeland
that abode
that saw me born
my life is today
errant and distressed
and no more can I
to my home return.

Cherished bird,
beloved pilgrim,
I will bring my heart
close to yours.
I go remembering,
Tender swallow.
I will remember
my fatherland and cry.

Translation found here and another here.
There is another version, sung in English by Irish Tenor Brenden O’Dowda, here.

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