High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surely 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, nor 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,

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee (1922-1941)
Royal Canadian Air Force

Magee (an American who had illegally enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force) composed this sonnet after he flew a specially modified Spitfire to a height of 33,000 feet in a test flight on 18 August, 1941.

His aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision a few months later. Magee was too close to the ground to eject safely. He was 19 years old.

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~ by scalambra on February 8, 2010.

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