January 28th, 2006


Poet's Corner: High Flight

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 nor 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.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (1922 – 1941)

I'm no fan of Ronald Reagan, but I have to admit that the address he gave from the Oval Office on January 28, 1986, honoring the seven astronauts who died in the Challenger explosion, in which he quoted from this poem, was a marvelous speech, possibly the best he ever gave.

On a lighter note, this poem was also featured in a memorable Bloom County strip, reproduced below. (Don't tell the Washington Post Writer's Group!)

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