Monday, October 27, 2008

A poem for all pilots.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Jun 9, 1922 - Dec 11, 1941

Born of an American father and English mother, both missionaries in Shanghai China. Educated in China, England and the United States. While in school in England he won the Rugby award for poetry for his work then. He forego a scholarship to Yale to join the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) in 1940. He underwent flight training and earned his wing in Ontario before being sent to England in 1941.

His most well known poem was written during and shortly after a training flight in October of 1941. He wrote another, possible his last, shortly after his first combat action in November of 1941. In December on a training flight, in low clouds over England, he died after a mid-air collision with an Airspeed Oxford twin engine trainer. At the ripe old age of 19.

This man, even before his nation made the call, saw what was right and stood up to be counted.

During this dark hour of human history, he wrote a poem that speaks to the soul of nearly every man, woman or child who has flown an airplane. In the midst of a world wide cesspool, he captured and expressed the pure joy, elation and freedom that can come from flight.

And his poem. Ronald Regan quoted 2 lines from it to commemorate the men and women lost on STS-51-L. Every person who's attended the US Air Force Academy can quote it from memory. The Canadian Air Force, Royal Air Force and other commonwealth air forces use it as their official poem.

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.

No comments: