THE DEVIL’S FOOTPATH (Camino del Diablo)
(©Words and Music by Paul F. Cowlan)

If you ever walk the old Pilgrims’ Way, across northern Spain to Santiago, watch out for this stretch of the camino. I’ve since learned that I’m not the only one to have felt the strain here. My memory of Calzadilla is a long, sleepless night among prickly straw-bales, with all the neighbourhood dogs barracking a golden moon.


There’s a long and stony footpath that leads from Villotilla,
without a drop of water and without a patch of shade,
turning neither left nor right till it reaches Calzadilla
and a hellfire sky as the sunlight begins to fade.

I was walking on that pathway with many miles behind me,
my water-bottle empty and my gullet hot and dry,
when I thought that I heard footsteps, like someone trying to find me,
and the sound of cloven hoofbeats just about to pass me by.

I looked over my shoulder, but there was no-one near me;
just the blazing hot mesita stretching out and far away,
so I whispered to myself, knowing no-one else could hear me,
“If that is the Devil tell me what you have to say.”

His voice was soft. “You really must be crazy
to make this kind of journey when there’s so much else to choose.
It makes no sense at all, and the concept’s kind of hazy.
Take the bus to Santiago, rest your legs and save your shoes.”

I was more than half pursuaded; the road seemed never ending,
I was hot and dry and dusty, I was weary to my bones.
And my ideas of pilgrimage were hardly worth defending,
my blistered feet were aching from my back-pack, and the stones.

But then a cool voice rang in my ear,
“Don’t give up now when you’re getting so near.
There’ll be cool water at the end of the day,
if you don’t throw that water away.
Don’t throw it away.”


I could hear the Devil laughing, “Come on, climb up on my shoulder.
Don’t buy that kind of bullshit or you won’t have many friends!
Why waste your time? You’ve got to learn before you get much older
to fly with the eagle or to scratch with the hens!”

But I gave a smile and a shake of my head.
“You nearly got me there Señor.” I said.
“But nothing’s for free, that’s one thing I’ve learned,
and some pleasures have to be earned.
They just have to be earned.”

Then a gust of scorching wind blew the choking dust around me
till I had to turn my face away and close my eyes in pain,
but later, when the moon came out to look for me, she found me
where the highway and the river come together once again.

And a cool voice rang in my ear,
“Don’t give up now when you’re getting so near.
There’ll be cool water at the end of the day,
if you don’t throw that water away.

Don’t throw it away.”