John Gillespie Magee was an American aviator who came to Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force before the US formally entered the second world war. Magee was born in Shanghai to an American Father and a British Mother. John developed his taste for poetry after he moved to England in 1931. In 1938 he won the Rugby School’s poetry prize.
John was deeply influenced by the work of poet Rupert Brooke who also attended Rugby School and has also won the poetry prize at the school 34 years earlier.
John wrote a poem while at Rugby School, a sonnet entitled “Sonnet to Rupert Brooke” which refers to Rupert’s funnel( according to Wikipedia) late at night in an olive grove on the island of Skyros in Greece. If you click the link you can read the poem there.
But it is the poem High Flight, that brought Magee to fame written shortly before his death on 11 December 1941 at the age of 19. He wasn’t killed in battle but in a mid-air collision that happened over Lincolnshire in the UK.
The poem eventually became the unofficial anthem of aviators and astronauts.
It is the official poem of the Canadian Air force.
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.
What are you inspired by today?
I’d love to hear you experiences.
Until we meet again.
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