John Gillespie Magee Poems

John Gillespie Magee was a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot. His poem, ‘High Flight,’ made his name as a poet as well. It was written prior to his death during a mid-air collision in 1941. His poem was enclosed in a letter to his parents in September 1941.

High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee

‘High Flight’ by John Gillespie Maggee Jr. is a powerful WWII poem that was written in the weeks prior to the poet’s death. It explores flying, God, and human mortality.

This is Magee's only known poem and solidified his reputation among World War II poets. This piece's first and last lines are incredibly well-known and have been featured in other poems, novels, and films. Sadly, the poet died not long after this poem was written in 1941 after his plane collided with that of another pilot's over England.

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

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