John Magee--British/American


  
 John Magee
(1922-1941)
 
John Magee’s brief life is remembered because of his poem, “High Flight.” Born in Shanghai, China, in 1922 to an American father and British mother.  John spent his first years of schooling in China, but moved with his mother to England to continue his education. It was during his adolescence that he began to write poetry. At the outbreak of World War II he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, since the U.S. had not officially entered the war.  Magee was killed when his Spitfire plane collided with an RAF trainer. His gravestone is inscribed with the first and last lines of his “High Flight” poem: “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth—Put out my hand and touched the Face of God.”
 

High Flight
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.