Poem of the Month, August 2022

The poem of the month for August, 2022, is “Song of the Aviator,” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

“Song of the Aviator”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

From the Detroit Free Press: “This poem, written by Mrs. Wilcox at the request of the late Lieutenant T. J. Kennedy, so far as is known has never been published.  It is here printed by courtesy of Mrs. Kennedy, mother of the Detroit aviator in whom Mrs. Wilcox took such deep interest—who received from the poet an autographed copy.”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a popular poet in the late 1880s; her two best-known collections of poetry were Poems of Passion and Poems of Pleasure.  She was in France in the summer of 1918 and met Kennedy when he was recovering from a flying accident. As far as is known, this is her only poem about aviation, written at Kennedy’s request in 1918.  She died in October of 1919, less than two weeks before this poem appeared in the Detroit Free Press on 9 November 1919.

Song of the Aviator

You may thrill with the speed of your thoroughbred steed, 
You may laugh with delight as you ride the ocean, 
You may rush afar in your touring car 
Leaping—sweeping by things that are creeping, 
But you will never know the joy of motion 
Till you rise up over the earth some day 
And soar like an eagle, away—away.  

High and higher above each spire, 
Till lost to sight is the tallest steeple; 
With the winds you chase in a valiant race, 
Looping—swooping, where mountains are grouping 
Hailing them comrades in place of people.  
Oh! vast is the rapture the bird man knows, 
As into the Ether he mounts and goes.  

He is over the sphere of human fear, 
He has come into touch with things supernal.  
At each man’s gate death stands a-wait 
And dying—flying were better than lying 
In sick beds crying for Life Eternal.  
Better to fly half way to God, 
Than to burrow too long like a worm in the sod.  

NOTE:  Lieutenant Thomas P. Kennedy was evidently killed while in pilot training at the U. S. Army Air Service flying school at Tours, France, in the summer of 1918. 

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