Life Lessons From One of Spain’s Greatest Poets

Dedicado a Antonio Machado, poeta by Joan Manuel Serrat
Dedicado a Antonio Machado, poeta by Joan Manuel Serrat

TUNE OF THE WEEK: Cantares (Joan Manuel Serrat)

(Zafiro/Novola, 1969)

As I’ve previously stated and something that should come as a surprise to literally no one, I am a strong believer that music is a great way to learn a language and engage with a different country’s culture (it’s basically part of WAT’s raison d’être.)

I enthusiastically brought this up in my Spanish class recently when asked how we learn languages outside of homework. Our teacher raised a critical eyebrow: “Be careful, not all the Spanish you hear in songs is necessarily correct.” Don’t quote Bad Bunny in your exams, basically. 

This is true and while I won’t be calling anyone “bebesota” any time soon, music does have something to offer. An introduction to Spanish poetry, for example, and all the life lessons it has to offer us.

In 1969, Catalan singer Joan Manuel Serrat released Dedicado a Antonio Machado, poeta, a collection of 12 songs based on the works of one of Spain’s most famous poets, Antonio Machado (1875–1939). In 1912, Machado published the poetry collection Campos de Castilla (Castilian Fields). It’s a work where symbolism weaves together existential musings on the Self and The Other, and Romantic depictions of Spain’s rural and urban landscapes. Serrat drew heavily on the work for his best-selling album.

Of Serrat’s album, his most well-known song is Cantares, based on Marchado’s poem Proverbios y Cantares and if I were to highlight one line, it’d be this:

Caminante, no hay camino
Se hace camino al andar
Caminante, no hay camino
Sino estelas en la mar


Wayfarer there is no path
You make the path by walking
Wayfarer there is no path
Only wake trails in the sea

It’s a beautifully-put message on self-determination as pertinent now as it was when Marchado wrote it in 1912, or Serrat sang it in 1969. This leads me into my next important PSA. As the temperature drops, we’re well into into text-your-ex season.

Stop right there.

Forget them and their Lucy & Yak dungarees. It may be cuffing season but keep your eyes on the path ahead, champion. Don’t look back.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts
Read More

One to Watch: Azahriah

The outspoken rising star putting Hungarian music on the map. Meet your new favourite artist. Earlier this year,…