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      John Gillespie Magee Jr. (1922-1941)

          Hight Flight (An Airman's Ecstasy)

    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 sun-lit silence. Hovering 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 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.


Bowen et.al. note that Magee "left England under the threat of the Second World War to take up a place at Yale University. Once there, however, he wanted to join the fighting: he crossed the border into Canada in October 1940 to enlist illegally with the Royal Canadian Air Force... 'High Flight' was written on September 3, 1941, when Magee flew a high altitude test flight in a Spitfire."

The poem can be found in:

  • Bowen, Retta, Nick Temple, Nicholas Albery, and Stephanie Wienrich, eds. Poem A Day, Vol. 3. Hanover, NH: Zoland Books, 2004.

    In spite of its date of publication, High Flight is apparently in the public domain due to its wide early publication.