I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

I have always loved this poem. It was composed by John Magee, a Spitfire pilot serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force, at the beginning of the Second World War. He was 19 years old when he wrote these words, and still 19 when he died.

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.

These images evoke memories of familiar realms, places of spirit where time and space do not constrain, where love is the fundamental quality of all interactions and indeed is the very fabric of what is.
I will go there, I know, in time. But I’m not done here yet. I have learning to experience, growth to celebrate, teaching and healing and loving still to do. So I choose to be see beauty in the face of my pain and limitations. I choose to welcome sorrows into my house as Rumi does, to make them my friends and teachers. I choose to know that all is well because I too can put out my hand and touch the face of God.

December 6 2021

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