High Flight

Sunday, August 26, AD 2012

This seemed appropriate on a weekend when Neil Armstrong died.  The poem was written by 19 year old John Gillespie Magee, Jr. an American serving as a pilot with the RCAF in World War II in England, prior to the entry of America into the War.  A few months after he wrote the poem  he was killed in a mid-air collision.

High Flight    

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 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.


7 Responses to High Flight

  • I remember hearing that spoken many times with a video of an F-104 (?) jet at the end of the programming day before the channel went off. It was strange when it disappeared. I wonder whether the last line did the video in due to modern ‘life values’ or whether it was 24 hour programming. It seemed like hearing a lullaby.

  • What eloquence for a 19 year old author! And an appropriate post, considering the circumstances.

  • That was my fave poem in high school.

  • Great writing for a 19 y/o WW2 pilot. It would have been good to have say – a P51 Mustang in the clip, but I would assume that Armstrong flew F 104 s in his days at NASA.

    Had never heard the poem before.

    I recall in 1969, having been married only the year before, sitting on the front step of a little old cottage Sandy and I were renting across the road from the ocean beach at Mt. Maunganui, on a lovely clear night, listening to the sound of a gentle surf breaking on the beach, looking up at the moon and being in awe, that men were walking around up there.
    An unforgettable experience, and, in this field of endeavour, mankind has done nothing as great since.

  • And of course, it was to this poem that Ronald Reagan alluded in his tribute to the Challenger astronauts who had “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

  • USAF Song: ” . . . Into The Wild Blue Yonder.”

    ” . . . We’ll live in fame,
    Or, go down in flames.
    No one can beat the US Air Force.”