I was interested in the conjunction of Easter with Anzac Day this year. There were many possible sediments of significance to explore - sacrificial death, afterlife, remembrance, dawn. But I was wary, too, of an exploratory zeal that might distub significant sentiments. However, unwilling to let the occasion pass without some literary marker, I dug up this poem 'High Flight' by Canadian airman John Gillespie Magee, who, in 1941, aged 19, just a few months after composing the poem, crashed his Spitfire into a RAF plane over Lincolnshire. When the planes collided, Magee jumped out of his cockpit, but he was so close to the ground that his parachute did not open, and he died on impact. Like Easter, the poem is beautiful and sad, and life and death collide in its last line.
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 windswept 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.