Sunday, October 6, 2013

High Flight & Touching The Face Of God

The Most Famous Aviation Poem
and A Mantra For Pilots All Over The World

I don't know anyone of a certain age, who watched any PBS TV at all, who doesn't remember this stirring video clip. It was aired as the sign-off of many PBS stations across the US, during the 60-70s. Of course, it gives me chills as it begins, as the music crescendo rises then levels off, and the narrator's deep voice speaks the first few riveting words, Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth...

(Note in email for email followers: Included are 2 Youtube Videos that you can view at my blog. They are the main feature of this post. Please don't miss them.)

The poignant thing for me is not only that the pilot thought so much of God's creation that he considered himself to have touched God's face; but because of what I learned about the author of this highly-emotional poem. He was a young Royal Canadian Airforce pilot, of American and British heritage; whose parents were missionaries. After he was assigned to No. 412 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, which was formed at RAF Digby, England, he died in a mid-air collision (Wikipedia). How fortunate that he enclosed such a beautiful poem in a letter to his parents. It has always filled me with exhilarating hopefulness, and continues to bless the world.

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.

Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941

Magee is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Scopwick in Lincolnshire, England. On his grave are inscribed the first and last lines from his poem High Flight:
"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth –
Put out my hand and touched the Face of God. (Wikipedia)"

Sources Cited:
Feenbox Aviation-
Deltaweb UK-

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