High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr

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.


  1. Oh, my. Twenty-five years. I remember exactly where I was & how stunned we all were at the impossibility of it. And Reagan reciting that poem...
    Thank you for keeping them alive in the collective memory bank.

  2. I can still see the smokey scorpion shape filling the sky as we watched disbelieving, horrified and silent. Thanks for posting this poem. I needed to read it again.

  3. One of my favorite poems. To show how 25 years has changed this world, when Reagan spoke at the memorial service after this tragedy and extracted words from this poem without giving credit to John Gillespie Magee Jr. as being the poet (and in fact giving the impression that they were his own marvelous words--it is only as the years passed that the source became more widely known). I was so furious that I wrote a letter to the editor of our newspaper. At that time they actually printed the addresses of people whose letters they published, so after my fuming letter appeared I had about ten letters from people who read it (only one who didn't like my tone about the President). One admitted to believing the words were Reagan's and thanked me for the name of the poet. The others all remembered the poem from their school years or other times in the past and so very much would appreciate my sending them a copy of the full poem. One included a self-addressed-stamped-envelope because she wanted the poem so dearly.

    No Internet to jump onto for instant information. No printers to have the poem in hand in a matter of minutes. Amazing. Perhaps their library too far to walk.

    I happily sat at my mother's IBM Selectric typewriter(! and typed the poem for each of those people. One, a man in his 80s at the time, became a regular pen-pal of mine. He lived in Portland, only 40 miles away, but might as well have been in Australia for how exciting it was to get his letters. The time came when the letters no longer came and I knew he was gone.


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