Saturday, May 26, 2012

Poetry on TV: John Gillespie Magee, Jr.'s "High Flight", Television sign-off.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.'s "High Flight" used as 1960s late-night television sign-off. (Watch it on YouTube in colour here.)

"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 have trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

A personal review by a viewer at the invaluable Internet Archive:

"Subject: Almost brought me to tears

When I was young but old enough to stay up late, I used to stay up late just to see and hear this clip when a local TV station went off the air. I did this many nights until I had memorized the poem. There was no Internet then and I had no other way to find the text of this poem then. Seeing and hearing this clip after over 40 years almost brought me to tears. It was, and is, my favorite poem and I quote it to myself often. This poem inspired me to an interest in flying and the space program. Unfortunately, I never did...and regret it even now when I hear this again. Thanks."

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