Remembering High Flight
by JD Adams
In memory of the sacrifices made during the heroic period of legacy military aircraft, here is “High Flight” by American poet and aviator John Gillespie Magee. A reading of the poem was shown as a public service message during my youth. I suppose the spiritual message at the end made it politically incorrect. It is the official poem of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force and has to be recited from memory by fourth class cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.
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 wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever 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.
— John Gillespie Magee, Jr
Magee perished in a mid-air collision with another aircraft over Roxholme, England in 1941. His biography, Sunward I've Climbed, The Story of John Magee, Poet and Soldier, 1922–1941, was written by Hermann Hagedorn and published in 1942.