High Flight

In December 1941, Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a 19-year-old American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force in England, was killed when his Spitfire collided with another airplane 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.

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, nor even eagle flew.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctuary of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God . . .