High Flight, an Airman’s ecstacy
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.
Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr. RCAF (1922-1941)
This poem describing the joy of flight, was written by American John Gillespie Magee Junior, a wartime Spitfire pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was just 19 when he was killed in a mid-air plane collision over Lincolnshire, UK in 1941 and he is buried in the churchyard nearby at Scopwick. This poem was among papers sent home to his parents.
Magee and his poem were discussed on the BBC programme Inside Out. The poem has been quoted on many occasions, the best known being by President Ronald Regan in his speech following the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.