High Flight

by John Gillespie MacGee, Jr. (1922-1941)

This is a poem written to his parents shortly before he died in a training accident at age 19. He said to them, "I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed." John was flying Spitfires in Britain at the time.

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.

Hovering 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 the silent, lifting mind,
I've trod the high untrespassed
sanctity of space,

Put out my hand and touched
the face of God.