We offered a very moving Solemn Requiem yesterday for Remembrance Sunday, concluding with the Absolution of the Dead, wherein we remembered and prayed for all those who gave their lives for others in the conflicts and wars of the past. On Saturday evening the annual Festival of Remembrance was broadcast on the BBC. One of the poems read aloud was the very moving High Flight, written by a 19 year-old RCAF pilot just a few months before his death over the skies of England. I’m surprised, after learning more about the fame of this poem, that I’d never come across it until this past weekend. I reproduce here.
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.
John Gillespie Magee Jr, 1922-1941
Fr Lee Kenyon