Monday, December 08, 2008

Blue Monday #11: Slipping the Surly Bonds

"High Flight"
Atlantic Beach, NC - October 2008 (Click to embiggen)

 Hosted by Smiling Sally

Every time I see a bird of any size from this angle, I'm reminded of the poem High Flight, a sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, a 19-year-old pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. According to The "Quote ... Unquote" Newsletter
He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at the age of nineteen on 11 December 1941 during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick.

The sonnet was written on the back of a letter to his parents which stated, 'I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed.' The parents were living in Washington, DC, at the time of his death and, according to the Library of Congress book Respectfully Quoted, the poem came to the attention of the Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, who acclaimed Magee as the first poet of the war.
I remember the verse best from my childhood when the US Air Force used it in recruiting ads on TV. If my dim memories of those ads is correct, the poem was a voiceover for a series of clips involving an F-104 Starfighter, and was the only spoken copy in the entire commercial. To this day, I get chills when I hear it or read it. Or even think it... as I did when I took this shot.

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 falls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor eer 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.

- John Gillespie Magee, RCAF
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SmilingSally said...

Ah, that poem... man always is trying to reach UP to God, and all the time, God is reaching OUT to man. Happy Blue Monday!

Scooterblu's Whimsy~Rhonda said...

Beautiful post and beautiful blue sky picture! Stunning! Happy Blue Monday! :) ~Rhonda

Rechelle ~Walnuthaven Cottage~ said...

such a beautiful blue post.

Sweetie said...

The photo is a work of art. The poem is inspirational. Happy
Blue Monday!

Daryl said...

really, a great shot


CC said...

What a beautiful blue post. Happy Blue Monday.

The Quintessential Magpie said...


I loved your post today. That poem gives me chills as well and is perfectly paired with that maginficent photograph. Good job! Really top drawer!

Thank you for sharing.

Happy Blue Monday!



C'est moi Claudette said...

Interesting that you post about birds and flight. Our Woodpeckers, bluejays and finches are back for the winter. We have been watching then all morning.
I love birds.
Happy Blue Monday
Claudie from Canada

Jeanne said...

The poem is lovely and the story is very moving. I love the sky pic with the bird. So blue and and beautiful.


carmilevy said...

This brings to mind Ronald Reagan's speech to the nation in the wake of the Challenger disaster. I was touched then, and I'm touched now.

Deborah Godin said...

I'd forgotten that ad/poem until reading this post - both are certainly memorable. And the poem is all the more remarkable for being so eloquent from one so young. My first thought, after lo these many years, was how far the education system has slipped from the standards that could foster thoughts and words like this from a 19-year-old. The bird is perfect with this; very nice photo.