Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday's Poetry: "High Flight"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Last night while watching The Man Without a Face, I listened in rapt attention as Mel Gibson gave a dramatic rendition of "High Flight," a sonnet familiar to many for no other reason than it was once used as the sign-off for some television stations - back in the day when television stations actually signed-off to signal the end of their broadcast day.  This poem was also used in part by President Reagan when he led the national mourning for the crew of the space shuttle Challenger.

"High Flight" was written by a young American who was serving as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.  I say young, because John Gillespie Magee, Jr., died in an aircraft accident while training in 1941 at the tender age of nineteen.  At the time of his death, Magee had actually penned several poems of such power and beauty that they would merit his recognition as a poet of great renown  - but it was "High Flight" that insures his legacy.

High Flight
by 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 even 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.

I will probably be hearing (in my head) Mel's rendition of this paean to flight as I board the plane for Korea tomorrow!

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