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.
– Officer John G. Magee Jr., November 1941
This poem was written by John Gillepsie Magee Jr., a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Magee was born in Shanghai, China, and later moved to the United States. Since the U.S was neutral at the beginning of the war he joined the Canadian air force so he could fight the Nazis. He wrote “High Flight” after being assigned to make a high-altitude flight. After landing, he ran inside and wrote this poem on the back of a letter he had written to his mother. Magee died at 19 years of age during an accidental mid-air collision in England in 1941.
Information courtesy of Veterans Affairs Canada and the Bomber Command Museum of Canada.