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.
The poem endured as a favourite among aviators and, more recently, astronauts. Beyond being quoted in numerous books and speeches, it’s also the official poem of the Royal Canadian Air Fore and Royal Air Force and must be recited by freshmen at the United States Air Force Academy.
It was written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American aviator and poet who died during World War II. He was only 19 years old…