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.
– Officer John G. Magee, Jr. – November, 1941
A Short Biography of John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was born in 1922 in Shanghai, China. In October 1940, at age 18, John Magee Jr. went to Canada and enrolled in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After his flight training, he went to England as a commissioned pilot officer. In the course of his training in the Spitfire aircraft, he was assigned to make a high altitude flight “into the stratosphere.” On landing, he went to his quarters and there wrote his now famous High Flight sonnet on the back of a letter to his mother.