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High Flight
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.



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.

This poem is in the public domain.




John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (1922 - 1941) was born in Shanghai, China, to an English mother and an American father. At the age of eighteen, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, trained as a pilot, and was sent to England to fly a Supermarine Spitfire with the 412 Fighter Squadron. After a high altitude test flight one day, John wrote his parents a letter and enclosed a poem--this one--that test flight inspired. He was killed a few months later, when his plane collided with that of another British military pilot.

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I love this poem and it is my favorite of all ever since the 5th grade and my brother read it to me and Mom and Dad. I loved then and now!!!!!! I had our minister read it at my Mom 's funeral service on Tuesday, December 13, 2022. She was 87 years old. Dad passed away from aggressive Esophageal Cancer on May 17, 1996 and he was barely 65 years old. He was a Purple Heart Korean War Veteran!!!!! Part of that War followed him home in many ways than one. He was my best friend then my Mom took over after after he passed. I take after my dad. Dad was awarded many medals and comendations, including what we thought was a Sharpshooters, but was actually a Marksmanship medal and a good conduct medal plus a medal of freedom award shortly after he passed from Presidential Clinton. This poem was spoken aloud on television with videos of old jets jets flying and streaming across the sky!! It came on at the close of the television day...AFTER the Star Spangled Bangled Banner!!!!!!! I always loved that and looked forward to it until 24 hours a day television!! It is wonderful and beautiful poem. Constructed tremendously out of lovely words describing what Flight was all about!!!!! This is why Gillespie 's words have almost lasted nearly 100 years and then some. In reading it I feel as though I can fly.......with out wings!!!!!!!
Posted 08/01/2023 05:27 PM
This has been my most favorite poem since I was in 5th grade and my brother read it to our family of me and Mom and Dad.I felt so much as if I was flying myself and that I could go into high space!! I love this poem most of all!!!!!!!
Posted 08/01/2023 05:00 PM
One of my Ninth-Grade classmates at Gordin Junior High School in Washington, D.C. was a boy named Christipher. Christopher had a hand-operated miniature, printing press at home on which he published a neighborhood newspaper. He shared one particular copy of his paper with us, his class mares. That edition contained what may been the first printed copy of a poem written by his older brother, John. We junior high students adopted that poem as oir own. Thank you, Christipher, for sharing -- and thank you, Jorn, for writing -- "High Flight." (I knew the words by heart as a teenager in the '40s, and today (in my late 90s) I can recall then - nearly word-for word -- inmy heart.)
Posted 02/20/2023 12:48 PM
My father was a published RAF pilot and had much in common with Magee. Indeed, High Flight is a priceless work that could only be told by one who was there. My dad's poems were equally perceptive and eloquent. The tragedy of young Magee's untimely demise simply makes his poem prophetic and loaded with hope and joy and tragedy. Dr. Keith Reiss
Posted 06/25/2021 03:10 PM
Marion Sosa:
This was recited at my grandfather's funeral in 1972. He was not a pilot, but had many small planes, in which my father, in the jump seat, sisters and I used to have an occasional thrilling treat. Not many kids from Fairmont,WV could say they flew to Baltimore to get a bushel of seal point oysters. My dad smoked, and we all were proned to motion sickness. He would light a cigarette and we would just groan. The pilot, Raymond would say " for God's sake, Jim, put out the cigarette!". I NEVER got sick! Too thrilled!!!
Posted 06/08/2021 06:11 PM
My father had this poem read at his funeral service. It was always his favorite and his inspiration. He learned to love flying in the Army Air Corps and J.G.Macgee, Jr. captured my Dad's feelings perfectly.
Posted 04/30/2021 03:47 PM
This is my favorite poem. I have had a plaque with this poem hanging in my den for many years, probably a gift when I first learned to fly, long ago.
Posted 04/25/2021 03:20 PM
This is the only poem I remember well from my school days. It was probably the first time I realized how the sounds and shapes and rythm of words bring emotion and meaning in addition to the literal meaning. This poem still thrills me sixty years later. I hope it was some comfort to his family.
Posted 02/16/2021 12:25 PM
Used to love this poem when it came on tv early in the morning before I left for school in the early 1960s, although it is best known as a sign-off at night when the tv stations would shut down for the night.
Posted 02/02/2021 01:46 PM
I hope one day I'll Put out my hand, and touched the face of God
Posted 09/14/2020 04:36 AM
This is the first poem I learned in school, when I was 7 years old. I memorised it then and have remembered it for nearly 64 years. I have taken a symbolic picture of birds in flight and named my shot after this touching poem and the special feelings it inspires in me daily. As I approach the end of my life here, this poem and my image continue to inspire me as to how wonderful nature is and how lucky I have been to be part of it.
Posted 08/26/2020 04:58 AM
Having touched the face of God these words were undoubtedly inspired by Him.. God Bless you John
Posted 08/15/2020 09:45 PM
I have translated into french this beautiful poem which is untranslatable - but which tells so much to anyone however - espacially to a modest private french pilot
Posted 05/13/2020 11:13 AM
tears brought to my eyes as I read. I imagine me flying high like an eagle.
Posted 02/25/2020 01:23 PM
nadia ibrashi:
So beautiful. What a tragic end for such a talented poet.
Posted 08/08/2011 10:14 AM
This is magnificent! It captures a real sense of what it is to fly. There are so many phrases I recall from earlier readings. So seamless and powerful!
Posted 08/08/2011 08:42 AM

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