The poem ‘High Flight’ was written by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jnr. ‘High Flight’ evokes the joy Magee felt when flying a Spitfire. Magee, an American, crossed the Canadian border in 1941 and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force – America was still neutral at this time. In September 1941 he wrote ‘High Flight’ after testing a Mark V Spitfire at high altitude.
“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.”
Magee was killed in a flying accident on December 11th 1941.