On this terrible, tragic day, it’s worth quoting the whole of the poem from which those lines from the Challenger speech were taken.
The poem, called High Flight, was written by John Gillespie Magee, a Spitfire pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force:
“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 falls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor 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.”
John Magee, the son of an American father and British mother, was killed in a flying accident in December, 1941. He was 19.