With all of the hits my website seems to be getting these days, I decided to do a shift…
As a USAF ROTC cadet at the University of Georgia, we were required to learn a poem called “High Flight”. It was written by John Gillespie Magee, jr.
At the time, I knew nothing about Magee, and didn’t really hold much credence for his poem, either. All I knew was that I had to be able to recite it, start to finish, on command. I did, and I can still repeat every word to this very day. Difference is, after 35 years of flying airplanes, the words have quite a bit more meaning to me now.
It turns out that Magee was the son of missionaries and was born in China. He grew up in England and joined the Royal Air Force at the beginning of WWII. He was a fighter pilot and knew the true glory of flight. He died in combat in December of 1941.
These are the words of his poem, 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.”
I didn’t know why I needed to memorize that poem back in 1984. I now know that there are times that I appreciate the words more than I could have ever dreamt.
Most people don’t know the glory of flight. No offense to those of you that don’t… but sometimes I feel like that explains a lot.