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Back to: Poets (you should know)

American poet John Gillespie Magee

MAGEE: John Gillespie Jr. 1922 – 1941

Born: 9 June 1922, Shanghai, China
Died: 11 December 1941, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom (Aged 19 killed in a flying accident)


Magee was the son of missionary parents. In 1939 he went to the States and enrolled at Yale on scholarship. He became a pilot with the Royal Canadian Airforce in 1941 which is when he wrote High Flight. He died when his Spitfire collided with another plane over England. He is buried in Scopwick (Lincolnshire) in the UK.


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 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.