Wednesday, December 17, 2008

High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., 1941

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, nor 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.


  1. When President Reagan quoted the first and last lines of this poem in reference to the lost lives of the Challenger astronauts, I was not aware of this poem or the poet, a young pilot who died at nineteen 3 months after writing the poem. He left a beautiful memory.

  2. Yes indeed. It's quite beautiful, and oft quoted in Britain on Remembrance Day.

    And at age 19! Ye gods! when I look at them today at 19. Would they, could they......?


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