In this trying time for the airline industry, I thought it might be relevant to share one of my favorite poems. This poem was a favorite of my grandfather, Jack Asire, a former TWA captain. We had this read at my grandfather’s funeral. Those old enough to remember the Challenger disaster will remember that President Reagan quote this poem in his address to the nation that followed the disaster.
This is a sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, an American pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at the age of nineteen on 11 December 1941 during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick.
While the poem is often used when pilots pass away, it is really a celebration of what being a pilot entails, of the joy that being a pilot brings to most of us.
"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.
Hovering 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."