Song Lyric Sunday – Veterans Day

Helen’s SLS Theme prompt for today is ‘soul,’ but because it’s Veterans Day (old Armistice Day), I’m going my own way with a poem which has had many beautifully-set musical adaptations.

This famous poem was composed by Pilot Officer (and Poet) John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). He wrote it during August or September 1941, three months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Magee wanted to be a poet and he emulated the writing style of Rupert Brooke, for whom Magee wrote The Sonnet to Rupert Brooke. The famous poem, The Soldier, was one of Brooke’s most inspiring World War I poems.

Magee was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, to missionaries. His father was American and his mother was British. He came to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940, he enlisted in the RCAF and was graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941, where he wrote the poem High Flight. On December 11, 1941, Magee’s Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19 years of age, died in the crash. His remains are buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire. (Bio & photo courtesy of USAF)

High Flight, a gift from my wife the day I earned my wings when she was married to a lieutenant almost a third my age, has hung on my office walls for 45+ years. It is a nicely decoupaged (by her) script on a carved wooden plaque.

The High Flight video takes less than one minute and sounds great.

High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

“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.”

(This poem is in the public domain.)

Happy Vet’s Day.
Look both ways and check six.
Mind gaps with your head in the clouds.

 

But, if I had gone with ‘soul,’ it would’ve been Lady Marmalade by (Patti) Labelle – Hey Sister, Soul Sister; click the link to hear the fab song written by songwriters Kenny Nolan and Robert Crewe (Lady Marmalade lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC).

 

Click graphic for link to SLS page.

4 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday – Veterans Day

  1. That poem is beautiful on so many levels, Bill. The phrases “laughter-silvered wings” and “tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds” are stunning, and listening to the poem on the video was extremely moving. Your choice is the perfect definition of “soul” on this Veterans Day.

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  2. A chillingly beautiful poem from one of the chosen few who have flown near the heavens and “touched the face of god”. Thank you for your service to our country, Bill🇺🇸 May you continue to soar in your creative pursuits.

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