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MaGee was born in Canada; his father was American and his mother English. At age 18 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and flew out of England. In 1941 he was killed in a plane crash at age 19. "High Flight", written just a few months before his death, is the official poem of the RAF and RCAF and appears on a display panel at the Canadian War Museum and at the U.S. Air Force Academy.


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 wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever 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.

(To those who gave their lives to England during the Battle of Britain and left such a shining example to us who follow, these lines are dedicated.)
"They that have climbed the white mists of the morning;
They that have soared, before the world's awake,
To herald up their foeman to them, scorning
The thin dawn's rest their weary folk might take;
Some that have left other mouths to tell the story
Of high, blue battle, quite young limbs that bled,
How they had thundered up the clouds to glory,
Or fallen to an English field stained red.
Because my faltering feet would fail I find them
Laughing beside me, steadying the hand
That seeks their deadly courage -
Yet behind them
The cold light dies in that once brilliant Land ....
Do these, who help the quickened pulse run slowly,
Whose stern, remembered image cools the brow,
Till the far dawn of Victory, know only
Night's darkness, and Valhalla's silence now?"

 

 

 

 

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