John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (1922-1941)

John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was a nineteen-year-old American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force in England when he died in an airplane crash in 1941. A few months before his death he had included this poem in a letter to his parents. It has since been widely reprinted in books and quoted in movies, and is perhaps the best-known poem related to flying in the English language.

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 nor ever 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.