- High Flight -
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 windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
- John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
In December 1941, Pilot Officer John G. Magee, a 19-year-old American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force in England, was killed when his Spitfire collided with another aircraft inside a cloud. Several months before his death, he composed his immortal sonnet "High Flight," a copy of which he fortunately mailed to his parents in the U.S.A.
This is the poem quoted in President Ronald Reagan's speech after the Challenger disaster.
"Slip the surly bonds" with Gene Seibel in his book, Confessions of a Pilot.
Slip Home - High Flight (FAA version)
Gene & Sue's Airplanes - Fighter Pilots
Lindbergh on Aviation - Beauty of Flight
Space Ship One - Airplanes and Death