This poem, “High Flight,” was written by a WWII Spitfire pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force who was dog fighting along with the British over the North Sea. Because of battle fatigue against the Nazi invaders, he had contemplated aiming his plane straight toward the North Sea to put himself out of his misery. His parents were missionaries, and he himself must have received a reservoir of faith to draw on in order to write this inspiring poem, which has become world famous:
“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.”
By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Magee died in a mid-air collision in 1941 at the age of 19. He had a full scholarship to Yale, but chose to fight, instead.