Poem (fwd)

Lynne Murphy M_Lynne_Murphy at BAYLOR.EDU
Tue Sep 28 22:34:43 UTC 1999


> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> My mother is trying to remember the airman's poem that ends with the
> line "touching the face of God".  I think that it is associated with
> the Battle of Britain.  Do you know who wrote it?  And here is the
> killer question was he RCAF or RAF.   We are both sure he was a
> Canadian.

The poem, which is called "High Flight" used to be played every night on a TV
station in Urbana, IL (maybe it still is) as the voice-over to pictures of Air
Force planes soaring about.  Then they played the national anthem and the
station went off the air.  God, I hated that poem.  Anyhow...

You can read it and read about it at:

Here's the poem and the beginning of the commentary.  Your friend was
wrong--he's not Canadian.  (Although he is RCAF), he's American!

who would be happy, on behalf of her country, to disown this poet and let the
Canadians have him

High Flight

               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, or even eagle flew.
                 And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
               The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
                 Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

                                                           -- John Gillespie
Magee, Jr

               During the dark days of the Battle of Britain, hundreds of
Americans crossed the
               border into Canada to enlist with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Knowingly breaking
               the law, but with the tacit approval of the then still
officially neutral United States
               Government, they volunteered to fight Hitler's Germany.

               John Gillespie Magee, Jr., was one such American. ...

M. Lynne Murphy, Assistant Professor in Linguistics
Department of English, Baylor University
PO Box 97404, Waco, TX 76798 USA
Phone:  254-710-6983     Fax:  254-710-3894

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