Thursday, May 18, 2006

Poetry Thursday

This week's Poetry Thursday assignment is to go on a field trip. As I live pretty far from anything resembling a bookstore, I went on a virtual one. I followed a long line of links, hoping that a poem (or even a whole poet) would speak to me.

When I came upon this poem I had a whoosh of memory. I knew this poem once, and somehow I had forgotten all about it. When I was in high school, my drama class put on a Remembrance Day assembly. My part in it was to recite this poem while my friend Brandy danced. She was all dressed in white and was under a black light. It sounds silly now, but it looked beautiful. I remember reading this poem for the first time and loving the language. It reminds me a little bit of e.e.cummings' work for it's sheer exuberance in word use.

I ended up having to recite the poem at my church - also for Remembrance Day. It was a very moving ceremony - with people standing up to tell their stories. One man had never told anyone anything about his experience in the war. For some reason that morning he felt safe enough to share. He had been on a submarine and they had been fighting with another boat all night. As the morning came they had finally sent a shot that was a direct hit. The men all cheered as they heard the explosion and the reports came in that the boat had been sunk. He said the cheers soon fell away into a profound silence as one by one they realized that that boat had been full of men just like them.

I got up to recite my poem right after all of this and I almost couldn't do it. I was so moved by the emotion of the service and the stories that I was in tears. I am always really moved by Remembrance Day services. I get really emotional seeing the veterans. I think I can sense how much suffering and pain they went through - something that many of us (hopefully) will never have to experience. I am honoured by their presence wherever I am.

Whew - that was a serious post! Here is the poem I wanted to share. The author died when he was 19. He was American but was fighting with a Canadian regiment in 1941. His plane collided with another in a cloud. A few months before he died he sent this poem to his mother. It gives me goosebumps.

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, 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.

- by Jon Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Pilot Officer, RCAF


liz elayne said...

this insight into your memory here...i love this.

what a powerful poem. thank you for sharing it here along with the memories.
this phrase - sanctity of space - is resonating with me in this late hour...

Catherine said...

I have seem the poem before, but I really enjoyed reading your memories around it. Thank you.

Dana said...

I love your story about this poem and your appreciation for the people who shared their war stories.

Jennifer said...

I feel like I've read this poem before... It is so good!

vicci said...

I know this most beautiful poem...I had forgotten all about it! I LOVE it!

paris parfait said...

I had forgotten about this beautiful poem - thanks for the reminder! I can see how easy it would be to be overcome by emotion on that auspicious occasion. So tragic how many people died too young in that war (and every other war). If you come to Normandy in France, there are many amazing memorials to those heroic young men.

Susannah said...

i'd never read this poem before, or heard of it. god, i've got a lump in my throat.... thank you for letting me read it

sage said...

wonderful poem; great imagery, spiritual and enlightening!


la vie en rose said...

when you know the back story of that poem it really changes the way you read it.

tara dawn said...

This is beautiful...incredibly moving. My heart reaches up to the blue sky of grace where this young man found such inspiration.

Tammy said...

Very moving! "Put out my hand and touched the face of God."

Thank you

Jen Rouse said...


chiefbiscuit said...

I've heard the last line of this poem before but never read it all - thank you - very moving, and wonderful words and use of language. Thanks for the story around it too :)

Bogart said...

I could see your friend dancing and you reciting as I read the poem, but then I was the pilot soaring into unchartered skies.
Very enjoyable.

chest of drawers said...

Makes me think of all the soldiers away from home today, some lessons are never learnt.