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Spines in the sky

I’ve wanted to write a post about flying and all the things about it that I love but I keep coming back to the famous poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., “High Flight.” His poem so beautifully captures the joy and wonder and freedom of flight, that I feel like nothing I could conjure could come close to it. Unfortunately, I think that most people associate it with memorials of those who have died in airplane accidents or President Reagan’s speech about the Challenger shuttle catastrophe.

I did a little research (ok, I just looked at wikipedia) and I was amazed to find that Magee, Jr. died at the young age of 19, in a training accident while flying a Spitfire. It’s stunning to me that someone so young could so eloquently describe the essence of flying.

Often, the first and last lines are combined as a quote, but here is the poem in its entirety:

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 have trod
 The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
 – Put out my hand, and touched the face of God


I hope that I can eventually write something about flying that will capture even a small fraction of that beauty. For now, I read his words…I think about all the wonderful times I’ve danced in the clouds and all the flights that are yet to come, and I smile…how fortunate I am to be privy to that magnificent world overhead.