This song is special to many people across the world but the meaning of it may seem hard to grasp.
Put simply, it is a song about liberty and the protection of liberty.
Liberty is another word for freedom but it also contains ideas of fighting, being protective, and being proud.
The title of the song is of course a reference to the title character Fernando, but the word itself can be broken down to reveal further meanings.
“For liberty, Fernando” holds the secret to understanding the song’s meaning. The thrust of the song, and the narrator’s purpose for going on her adventure, is “for liberty” and “for Nando”.
Nando is the “diminuitive” (shorter) form of the name Fernando, and therefore “for nando” could be taken to mean “for the children”. The fight for liberty is taken up so that younger people can enjoy the same freedoms we enjoy as adults. To understand this point further, please listen to Morrissey’s recent single All the Young People Must Fall in Love.
At certain periods in time it can feel as if “the stars are bright”.
At these times it feels as if the world is seizing up, and people try, in their small ways, to protect their little corners of the earth. This could be by doing the washing up for your partner, picking up a piece of litter, or even something grander like volunteering or joining the military.
The narrator and the title character are, in this song, fighting for liberty and protecting their corners of the world.
The song is in three parts: The 1st part, which is Fernando as a boy, the 2nd part/chorus, which is the corner-protecting-world-seizing moment, and the final act, which is Fernando as an old man and the narrator as an old woman.
Throughout the song, peace alone is used against the evils of the world, and violence is avoided as much as possible. This is the meaning of the “since many years I haven’t seen a rifle in your hand” lyric.
The sounds of ancient drums begin the first act, as referenced in the lyrics. The word “ancient” is justified by the “long ago” lyric. This imagery certainly has religious and possibly Christian overtones.
Fear starts to set in, as Fernando, and the narrator, feel the world seizing and are not sure how to react, except with peaceful gestures and acts, to protect their corners of the world.
The chorus is a relief - jubilant and cheerful - as the two characters revel in peace, goodness, and possibly Godliness, winning the day.
In the final act, the 3rd part, the characters are in their retirement years, and they congratulate each other for never having used violence - except when necessary - to win against those who wish to take freedom away.
The song ends on a final lyrical theme which has similarities to many other songs, including Edith Piaf’s Non Je Ne Regrette Rien. It is a declaration that the choice to only use peace in the battle for freedom is something they would do time and time again.
That is to say, they regret nothing.
The lyric that sums up this song is…
“If I had to do the same again/I would, my friend, Fernando”