Memorial Day 2009

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 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.

— John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

I first heard of this poem after the Space Shuttle Challenger Tragedy in 1986. Then President Reagan used the verse from Magee’s poem as a tribute to the astronauts who died so valiantly that day.

John Magee was 19 when he wrote “High Flight”, and while I am not a pilot, I imagine it captures the feeling of flight perfectly. Magee had piloted a Spitfire V to 30,000 feet and upon landing wrote a letter to his parents that included his now famous lines.

Three months later he was killed in a mid-air collision.

I love his poem, and as I saw this image taking shape in my viewfinder at the airshow yesterday, I thought of his words and how this pillar of smoke rising in the sky might compliment his immortal words nicely… Enjoy!

One Response to “Memorial Day 2009”

  1. Beautiful poem….

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