On August 18, 1941, officer John Gillespie Magee Jr. of the Royal Canadian Air Force took a new airplane, the Spitfire Mk I, on a test flight.1 Magee had just received his wings as a pilot. As he flew the Spitfire to new heights he felt inspired to write a poem that is now the official poem of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the British Royal Air Force. The poem has inspired short films, songs, inscriptions on headstones, presidential addresses, museum displays, and eulogies. Some have even used this poem as a prayer.
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 ...