Simon and Garfunkel’s – Sparrow Song Meaning


This post is about my favorite song “Sparrow” by Simon & Garfunkel. If you haven’t heard of it, you may read the lyrics and listen to it here.

It is actually a fable with an impacting meaning and a lot of lesson to learn. The five characters in the story are: the sparrow, the oak tree, the swan, the golden wheat, and the Earth.

The Sparrow and the Oak Tree

The sparrow was very tired from a very long flight and he badly needed some rest. He may represent a person or a community who underwent a lot of suffering and want to take a short pause to regain strength. The Oak Tree rejected the crying sparrow because its branches or leaves won’t be of any help [even though it’s obvious that they are what the sparrow needs]. The Oak Tree are those people who deliberately avoid the needy and even to the point of scolding them even without hearing their plea.

The Sparrow and the Swan

The exhausted little sparrow went on and spoke kindly to a swan hoping for whatever help he can get, perhaps some company would be appreciated. The swan was ashamed of the sparrow’s presence. If the swan helps the sparrow, the swan would be laughed at by the other swans who might see this “yucky” gesture of helping a stranger. Perhaps the swan represents those who deliberately not help the needy because of human respect. Human respect is when you opt not to do the right thing because you’re afraid people’s esteem and opinions towards you will go bad.

The Sparrow and the Golden Wheat

Suffered two rejections, our little protagonist wandered off and found himself in the middle of a wheat field. The starving little sparrow desperately asked for something to eat. He was very optimistic he would get something, after all, there was enough wheat to feed even flocks of birds of different kinds. Just one stem of the millions of wheat in the field would give a sparrow an instant relief of his suffering and hunger. However, the golden wheat so selfishly refused to help. “I would if I could but I cannot”, the golden wheat said, “I need all my grains to prosper and grow!” The golden wheat are those who do have sympathy to the needy but prefer not to share their excessive wealth in fear that they might need them in the future.

The Sparrow and the Earth

Here comes the hero (or heroine) of the story. Mother Earth with arms wide open offered her all. She heard the poor sparrow’s testimony and helped him and loved him until his death. If we exclude the last two lines, we would think that Mother Earth represents another group of people but this is not the case. Paul Simon, who wrote the song, clearly tells us that the Earth is God himself. Simon borrowed God’s words to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:19, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”.


My own reflection

We can all be sparrows at least in one point of our lives when we experience some kind of suffering. It can be financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. Nobody has lived and will live a perfect life with no suffering. Even our savior, Jesus Christ, suffered and died on the cross. So we will have our own sparrow experience if we haven’t had one already.

On the other hand, we also have this villain moments in some points of our lives. Because of selfishness and the absence of love, we sometimes are the oak trees, or the swans, or the golden wheat. We choose not to help the suffering sparrows because of whatever excuses we make.

So this song prompts us to do what?

This is more on our responsibility as God’s co-creators. Yes! God created man in his own image, in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). God created so man should partake of God’s work on earth as co-creators. We’re not only referring to procreation here but also the creation and propagation of love. After all, God is love. And it is love that prompts us to understand the sparrows all around us. Without love, we create a lot of excuses and end up like the three villains in the story. But with love, meaning with God, we can do the appropriate for our neighbors.

This is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church encourages us to perform works of mercy. The catechism has dedicated seven paragraphs (2443 – 2449) about “Love of For the Poor” highlighting seven spiritual works of mercy and another seven physical works of mercy. If we all do our part as God’s co-creators, we can make the world better.

Let us serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances!