Thursday, August 18, 2016

"High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee Jnr.

Red Arrows simulation booth (Royal Air Forces Association)
[Whitehaven Festival 2015]
On 18 August 1941 Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jnr., R.C.A.F., wrote the poem "High Flight" after being inspired by a high altitude training flight of a Spitfire. On 3 September 1941, Pilot Officer Magee wrote a letter home to his parents, enclosing the words of the poem: 

"I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed. I thought it might interest you."

It would become one of the most famous poems of WW2 and has remained popular ever since. According to the Venerable (Air Vice-Marshal) Jonathan Chaffey QHC, Chaplain-in-Chief of the Royal Air Force: 

"It has significance for many members of the Royal Air Force, as they discover in its words an expression of the joy, spirituality and pathos of their own experiences."

For additional information, click on 'Comments' below. 


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

"High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee Jnr.

"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."

Thursday, 18 August, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

An early death in the war.

Pilot Officer Magee was killed later in 1941 in a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire. The first and last lines of "High Flight" are quoted on his headstone. This is his Commonwealth War Graves Commission record:

Rank: Pilot Officer
Trade: Pilot
Service No: J/5823
Date of Death: 11/12/1941
Age: 19
Regiment/Service: Royal Canadian Air Force, 412 Sqdn.
Grave Reference: Row 3. Grave 33.

Additional Information:
Son of John Gillespie Magee and Faith Backhouse Magee, of Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

Magee's poem "High Flight" found particular fame when the President of U.S.A., Ronald Reagen, used lines from the poem as part of his address to the American people, after the "Challenger" space-ship blew up, killing seven of the crew.

Thursday, 18 August, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Further reading:

To read the BBC WALES News item about "High Flight" on the 75th anniversary of it being written, click on the following link:

Wartime poem High Flight remembered 75 years on


Friday, 19 August, 2016  

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