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High Flight
by John Gillespie MAGEE, Jr

 


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.


 


"High Flight," a poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (1922-1941). Magee was an
American who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force before the United States
entered the war. He trained as a pilot in Canada and went on to fly
Spitfires in the 412 Squadron in England. He was killed during a training
flight over Lincolnshire on December 11, 1941. He was 19 years old. Just
three months before his death, Magee wrote "High Flight" on the back of a
letter to his parents which stated: "I am enclosing a verse I wrote the
other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed."
The original copy of the poem, an anthem for aviators around the world, is
in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
A biography of young Magee, "High Flight: A World War II Story," by Linda
Granfield (Tundra Books, 1999) gives further details of his life and times
and includes information based on interviews with Magee's family and fellow
airmen.
Linda Granfield, Toronto, Canada.

 

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