The 11th of November is an important day in Britain, when everyone comes together to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in war for our freedom today. Many of us will be attending services at cenotaphs, memorials, churches, and cathedrals across the country to remember the Fallen. While we listen to the words of our country’s secular and spiritual leaders, hearing the words of the Fallen themselves is an important part of the way we remember their sacrifice.
Today I’ll be thinking of John Gillespie Magee Jr.’s beautiful poem, High Flight, which conveys the joy and ecstasy that so many of our airmen felt, and still feel today, at flying as part of the RAF. Pilot Officer Magee flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain and died in 1941, aged 19.
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 have trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.