Monday, 1 May 2017

Poetry Monday: Come Fly With Me

It's Poetry Monday! How does this day come around so fast every week?

Started by Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border, and picked up by Delores at Mumblings, Poetry Monday is a chance to celebrate poetry by writing, reading, or both. You can leave your offering in the comments at any of our blogs, or on your own blog. Just let us know where to look.

At Procrastinating Donkey, I am running out of ideas for my own poetry. This may have something to do with my real job taking more of my brain recently, or maybe it's just that I'm not, at heart, a writer of poetry as much as a reader of it. Whatever the reason, I am posting someone else's poem today. It's one I discovered as a teenager when my Grade 12 class was given an English assignment. The assignment seemed simple enough: "Create your own anthology. At least half must be poetry, and at least half must be original work."

I still have my anthology and treasure it. I remember every piece I wrote for it, and looking through magazines for artwork to illustrate my choices. The assignment left a lot of room for non-original pieces, too, and there was one poem I liked so much I memorized it -- without being required to.

Now that is not a major accomplishment by the standards of even one generation before me. My parents were routinely given poems to be memorized and recited in class. My grandfather's generation was also made to do this, and he continued to commit poems to memory into his old age, just for fun. (More on that next Poetry Monday.) 

I can still recite today's poem, over forty years later. The words, ideas and phrases just begged to be read aloud again and again, and seared themselves in my mind.

As an aside, there is only one other poem that I have ever learned by heart: In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae. I think just about every Canadian child is required to lean this for Remembrance Day recitations; McCrae was a Canadian poet and a physician in World War I, and his poem is one of the best-known war poems ever written. I consider it a privilege to have had the chance to learn it as a youngster.

But when, you ask, are we getting to the poem du jour?

Right now!

This is another poem from wartime. I didn't realize until I was doing some research for this post that it is as famous as In Flanders Fields. Both poems still gives me goosebumps.

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. 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.



From Pixabay, used with great appreciation.


*****

A note on the poet, from wwwyourdailypoem.com:

"John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (1922 - 1941) was born in Shanghai, China, to an English mother and an American father. At the age of eighteen, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, trained as a pilot, and was sent to England to fly a Supermarine Spitfire with the 412 Fighter Squadron. After a high altitude test flight one day, John wrote his parents a letter and enclosed a poem--this one--that test flight inspired. He was killed a few months later, when his plane collided with that of another British military pilot."

High Flight is in the public domain.




33 comments:

  1. Serendipity. I came across this poem only yesterday and loved it. It was quoted in an otherwise uninspiring memoir.

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    1. What a coincidence! And I'm glad you loved it too.

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  2. O_Jenny, this is a wonderful selection. I did not learn this beautiful poem in school, but by watching the midnight movie on channel 3 on Friday nights. At 2.a.m. the station --one of three here in this valley-- signed off with John Magee's magnificent poem with video. Found just now on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoL-KCFbIpA

    I can still recite most of it, even though I left home with no tv in 1968. I knew nothing about the poet's life, except he was a pilot, and regret learning he was on such a tight schedule. My thanks.

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    1. On a tight schedule, indeed - just as McCrae was too. I'm glad you liked this and was thrilled to view the YouTube clip. I also found the poem set to music and sung by John Denver -- another bit of poignancy; as you probably know he died in an airplane crash as well.

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  3. I had forgotten this great poem. As for memorizing...I hated it. We had to memorize quite a few things. Sunday school? The 23 rd Psalm. I cannot recall it today at all.

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    1. Ah, yes -- Sunday School. I guess there IS another selection I learned by heart! I could probably mumble along to most of the 23rd Psalm if necessary :)

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  4. In Flanders Fields reduces me to tears every time I hear it....High Flight gives me chills.

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    1. Amazing pieces, as thrilling as any music, eh?

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    2. Did you know Colonel John McCrae who wrote Flnders Fields was born inn this town where I live? He was so.

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    3. Aha ... so do they have any public monument or other remembrance of him? Have you ever blogged about it? I would read that, gladly!

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    4. The house that was his birth place is a historic site filled with items that would have been correct in the era and a whole section on the war...there is also a memorial and memorial garden to the side of the house. I blogged about it years ago on \The Featered Nest' which is now defunct.

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    5. I bet there's something online; I'll go have a look. Thanks, Delores.

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  5. I am familiar with both pieces and find them compelling to read or recite. Have a good week!

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    1. Compelling is a great description, e. Hope you have a good week, too.

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  6. What a great poem! I've never run across it. We used to memorize a lot of things in school when I was a kid. I think. Who remembers what was going on way back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth? :)

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    1. Ha ha!! And everything is online these days; why do we need a remembery thingy? :)

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  7. The pastor screwed up the 23rd Psalm at my grandmother's funeral. He said : "Thou preparest a table before mine enemies" which when you think about it, was sort of cursing her.
    I don't think it made any difference, but the comments above about that passage reminded me of it.

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. I had to go check out the psalm because I didn't remember that bit being in there, but there it was. I also found an analysis of the psalm that was much deeper (and personally, I think much more "out there") than it really was meant to be. Ah, but that's the thing with poetry. Open to many interpretations.

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  8. I've seen bits of that poem quoted here and there, though I'm not sure I've ever read the whole thing. I've only memorized one poem, "Eel Grass" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and it paid off -- I once recited it at a bookstore during poetry month in return for a discount on my purchase!

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    1. I bet most people at your bookstore recited something much simpler than you did! I hadn't heard of that poem but it is lovely.

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  9. Thank you for sharing "High Flight". It is a wonderful poem of the air that could only have been written by someone who had truly been there...

    But I pick up on your expression "seared themselves in my mind"...

    “I Love You”

    Those words you said
    That hot afternoon
    At the Greyhound station
    In Bloomington
    They are seared in my brain
    Like the fiery branding on a steer's hind
    Subcutaneously clear
    And always on my mind.

    (There could be further verses...)

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    1. As is often the case, I'm not sure whether to weep sentimentally or chuckle loudly at your comment, YP. I'm going to go with chuckle, as I often do :)

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    2. To laugh at an old tale of lost love - isn't that rather cruel?

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    3. That's not precisely the part I was laughing about, YP :)

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  10. I didn't know John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was just a kid! Think of what he could have done.

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    1. Just a kid - you're so right. Not even out of teenager territory. War took too many youngsters. I wonder what the world would have been like if they had all lived.

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  11. Happy birthday, birthday mate!!!! I hope you have a wonderful day and a wonderful year!

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  12. Day jobs can for sure do that to our brains. Ack.

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    1. Yep. It's pretty full in there :)

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  13. oh, that is a LOVELY poem - esp. that last line.

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    1. Gives me goosebumps every time! I'm glad you liked it.

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  14. Mr. Shife: Somehow I published your comment and then deleted it - sorry! Thanks for reading. I'll try not to delete you next time :)

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