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Kathryn Gabriel Loving

A day in eternity

The main character in A Day in Eternity, Anson Vincent Roe (Avroe), is the type of individual who would capture a rattlesnake with his bare hands just because he is curious. At the onset of the story, Roe loses his memory due to a horrific airplane crash. John Gillespie Magee, Jr., the WWII Spitfire pilot poet and author of "High Flight," takes him in hand.

 

Magee approached his own life as if he would not live past his twenties because of the impending war. "I learned that a close mate of mine had died in a car collision with a tree. None of our friends had any regrets because we knew that a spirit as irrepressible as his could not be quenched. Metal and wood are purely relative and cannot extinguish the absolute of the spirit. I knew that somewhere beyond time and space—or within them—the wooded hills resounded to his laughter and singing. I knew that I would someday be there to join the chorus.” This insight into death informed his poetry and choices, and it provides the wisdom to aid Roe in navigating his own life and death decisions.

 

"As Anson Roe regains his memory, he makes a shocking discovery. What the discovery is and how he deals with it forms the most interesting part of the plot. This twist came at a point when I least expected it and changed my entire impression about the book. While the author had given a few clues in the previous chapters, the revelation surprised me and made the plot more interesting for me. ...The philosophical element added significantly to the plot, while also making the book inspiring." — Reviewer, Onlinebook Club

 

"Kathryn Gabriel Loving blends fiction with reality in A Day in Eternity and includes real people in her fictional plot. The narrative provides the reader with ample room for thought; there are many poignant and reflective lines to consider and ponder. The poetry of Elinor Lyon and John Gillespie Magee, Jr., is magically woven into the story.  ...The transcendence of time and place, and the building of the characters as they grow, ascend, and fly through the rising action is stimulating." — Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite

 

Currently available in all formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and most places where ebooks are sold.
Softcover, 5.5x8.5, 280 pages, Print ISBN: 978-0983983828, Digital ISBN: 978-0-9839838-3-5

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

"High Fight"

Magee was born in Shanghai in 1922 and raised in his mother’s England where he received a classical education at Rugby School. The onset of the war between England and Germany in September 1939 marooned Magee in America during a visit. Homesick and lovesick for a woman called Elinor Lyon, he grew desperate to return to England. After graduating from a prep school in Connecticut, he gave up a scholarship to Yale to join the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Battle of Britain as a long-about ticket home. After nine months of aviation schooling, he finally returned to British soil and began training on the Supermarine Spitfire.

So enraptured by the heights and speed the Spit afforded him, he wrote his famous sonnet, "High Flight," as a mere eleven-day veteran on the aircraft. He died in an unfortunate accident three months later at only 19, but his sonnet still outlives him.

 

"High Flight" was not his only literary achievement; he wrote more than a dozen poems in his brief life. He also wrote extensively about his piloting experience, his spirituality, and the prospect of his own death. His uncanny prophecies formed the spine for this novel, A Day in Eternity.  He was most proud of his sonnet, "Brave New World," which won the Rugby Poetry Prize. The title for the novel was taken from a line in this poem. (Below)

 

Go to John Magee Loved Elinor Lyon in my blog to read about their relationship. The Spiritual Meaning of John Gillespie Magee's Poem "High Flight" his motivation for writing the sonnet and how it represents the pinnacle of his quest to return to England from his exile in America.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, we watched as local television stations signed off the air across the country, an USAF jet streak and loop across the sky with William Conrad reciting Magee's "High Flight." The scratchy film is no match to what can be produced today, but back then it fired the imagination, or at least it fired mine. This version, provided by the National Archives, was cleaned up by Jeff Quitney.

 

 

 

Brave New World

by John G. Magee, Jr., Rugby School Poetry Prize Winner, 1939

 

"A sad and great evil is the expectation of death

And there are also the inane expenses of the funeral

Let us therefore cease from pitying the dead

For after death there comes no other calamity." — Palladas


What Agony of Beauty! — How the sad

Long look of moonlight troubles all this place!

A crazy sweetness fills my head, until

The mind is swamped with fullness of the soul …

How will this beauty, at the time of death

Come sweeping back, come flooding over me!

How will this quiet hour in after years

Engulf the mind that once beheld its form!

What more could man desire?

— Quiet, and Peace,

You I would have flow over me like water

As some cool wave upon a sun-dried sand —

Here is a soothing rest for the troubled mind

In evening's coolness, fingers of the wind …

For here, in this freshening hour of breeze and night-birds

Here is the source of our constant sanity

We who spend years in offices and cars

Who though the slaves of Time can yet sustain

The balance of our twisted nerves and notions

As a heated lover —

hearing the song of a bird

Is still, — hears too, perhaps, though undefined

The haunting drift of death in the sombre wind …

How many generations loved this place,

And, passing, left to us this privilege?

So we who have come, continuing in their stead

Inherit the spirit and phrase of ancient sagas

Hearing, perhaps, in the whisperings of leaves

Tales that our fathers told when they were here

Feeling, perhaps, at evening in this place

Loves of the morning that our fathers knew

Here where the valley is filled with voices and pine-winds …

FIRST VOICE

Soon, soon you too will pass the way they trod

When the sweet air goes bitter at the mouth

When cold birds mourn the leaf that falls from the twig

Then Life goes out, leaving no power to hold him

All men go out at the End as the flowing of water

Carries the leaves down ‑

none remember it

For even then the time of Youth will be taken

The dogs will bark at evening by his tomb

The moaning curlews wheeling over it

Then in the time of death and evening's strangeness —

SECOND VOICE

The time of Youth is but as a sun that sails

Behind the clouds of time —

or a flickering light

That leaves the earth as soon as it has shone

And memory dims with the coming of age and greyness —

THIRD VOICE

Yes, and the time will come

When you will shuffle with the leaden feet

Of Age the shallow fallen leaves before you

And you will not understand why suddenly sweetness

Fills in the heart of you — nor why the tears

Spring into your eyes, for you will not remember ...

And you will say Where and When did I know such happiness

But you will not remember —

You will feel the freshening wind on your throat

And it will tug excitedly at your shirtsleeves ‑

And you will sweat in the effort to recall as one

Who reads a book at night

by candle-light —

And stares

At the black print until the page is blurred ...

FIRST VOICE

There will be little enough to forget then ‑

A woman's eyes —

And waves breaking ‑

The way the wind blows —

You will find it hard to remember

Her lips —

And the lamplight on the street-corner

You who have known

Flame of the sun's rising —

Flight of swallows —

A lover's nearness —

For the soft rains of time will wash them away

Siftings on siftings in oblivion —

Till change has broken down and obliterated

Even these sweet memories to the hard grey bones

But the grey bones will not remember …

SECOND VOICE

Man is but a fire breeding out of himself

Ashes, a momentary incandescence

That gutters into death, a fatuous flame

Leaving nothing, for the ashes will not remember.

YOUTH

I fear the time of death and evening's strangeness

I, as the dead, will forget the place of my loves

There will be nothing remembered in that day

Only the mouldered smell of a dust that was mine.

What will remain? What will remain but the

Sun in that time; the wind then; and the moon's

Pale wanderings in those leaf-fallen nights

— The memory of a life once gladly lived …?

And shall there only then remain of me

A scent as of a grass a long time dead?

THE  DEAD

Our lives were strange and noble; we believed

In the feel of the earth beneath us, trusted the sun

As it played on the leaves and flowers; and we conceived

Truth and true Beauty, End of things begun …

We, too, have laughed and sung our hundred songs

The sons we bore were perfect in our eyes

We hoped for them, but did not realize …

We saw them slain, — with faith we bore our wrongs

Watched we the clouds, and did not understand

We longed for happiness; we knew despair,

Lay, with our dreams, in the gutters; and were deceived

By eyes of women; whispered hand in hand,

And loved the moonlight on a lover's hair …

We were but a day in Eternity … still, we believed …

YOUTH

Believed in what?

 

THE DEAD

The Will of God.

YOUTH

How shall a man endure the Will of God and the

Days and the silence? In the years before him

Will he become as a ship that is lost at sea,

And drifting many ages in the deep

Can he believe in any Captain's skill,

The white gulls wheeling on the plight of him?

THE DEAD

We who are wise beyond your dreams of wisdom

Watched our "immortal" moments fade like grass —

Our visions deadened with the weight of years

We have gone forth beyond your bounds and borders

Our dwelling now is in Eternity

Where Time is shrivelled down to nothingness

We learnt our lesson in the day we died —

Life's not a game of money, banks, and houses,

No mere pretence that plays at love and mating

Of cheeks grown sunken and glad hair gone grey —

There is a subtler meaning in Existence

Who can but look on the stars and not believe?

 

YOUTH

It is hard to believe, not knowing, day to day

The first day's end, nor starting of the next,

Nor through dawn-mist to catch a glimpse of evening …

The tawny sands we tread in this short life

Washed in the surgings of Eternity

Can never hope to rise above their state

Of calm submission to the seas of Fate.

 

THE DEAD

There is a greater power than that of Fate

— The power of Love —

As red leaves follow where the wind has flown

So all men follow love when love is dead

And when the scent returns on the breath of the wind

Then in the faint scent of leaves at the year's ending

Come only the memories of the loves they bore …

YOUTH

Love?…

In the morn of my years there came a woman

A trembling upon the twilight of my life

Who came with the dawn of my time

as moonlight calling

As the moon calls to the tides she summons me —

This is the only Love that I have known

This brought me happiness;

In after years

I will remember this the love of any life

Cherishing the memory as no other —

FIRST VOICE

So you think that you are "in love" as you say?

But the years will show you how you were mistaken

You will recall perhaps the way her hair

Curled round her ears

But she will be a Sweet Memory as you will say

In the long after years of forgotten love.

THE DEAD

Frequently we have known the ecstatic agony

We too have known the abandonment of bliss

Sensing the heart through the lips that press

Coolly against one's own —

striving, across the pain

To send some feeling of the inward love.

SECOND VOICE

That was long ago in the time of your living

You thought that Love was all there was of pleasure

But now they search the avaricious features

Seeking a sign of the old remembered feeling

But finding nothing left of the love that was there

— Sixpence the price, it seems, for a change of passion

Cupid astride a compact, — powder puff —

Smoking a cigarette —

they are unable

To pierce the crust of a cheap, unreal beauty

To the Wealth of Love that lies, they're told, beneath.

These are the lures of women, harlot-habits

Who, half alive, invite to a fuller life

And never loving would be loved by them

For now the love of vanity persists

Each striving to outdo the other's attractions

Fantastic clothes (if any) entice and kindle

The smouldering flame of desire in the other sex

They try to stir to new affections hearts

Already purged and drained of all their love

Invoking a world of passion,

watch their years

By the permutations of their frocks and fashions

All designed to give the desired impression —

Freshness of body that belies the soul.

 

THE DEAD

But what of those who in proud and beautiful poems

Have praised the beauty of women —

 

FIRST VOICE

— Expecting Time

To falter in his stride beholding them,

Who call for a sudden hush in the ballroom of Life

As each respective beauty sweeps the stair!

YOUTH

I have read and heard read poetry —

some of women

Naming the grave mouth and the hair and eyes

Praising the young stride and the sweep of garments —

I too have tried to speak coherently

Watching the smooth shoulders and the veiling hair

To others the sound of these pen-whispered words

Is madness —

who have not seen the moving lips

Nor felt the soothing quiet of a girl's breathing

Knowing the hand's strain and the difficult labour

In the effort to coax from the heart the stubborn words —

SECOND VOICE

You think you are a poet, — preen yourself

On the obscurest reveries of the inward gaze

Lifting a wordy mirror of your affection

To some poor common girl you made a goddess —

Top of Second Column

FIRST VOICE

In the other days,

the deep clear stars befriending,

It was not hard to produce these lover's poems

Praising a woman's beauty with a pencil

Confident in the continuance of your living

Believing that you would meet with lips and hands

In some cool-scented paradise together

But now —

She who could never live without her lover

She who would never die without her charmer

Gone soon far from beyond the reach of hands

The unforgettable, unforgotten features

Soon lost within the emptiness of space.

THIRD VOICE

Yes, lost for ever

— for soon there will have come

A grinding discord in the tune of Life

Infinite things desired, lofty visions

All find their end with the coming of War

and instantly

A paradise is hurled to nothingness —

SECOND VOICE

And in the brutal holocaust of war

Swept by the lurid posters, roll of drums

His chapped hands fumbling rifle, hand grenade,

Each youth has time to contemplate his Soul

Feeling, perhaps, uneasy as his bullet

Pierces a stomach in the opposing trenches …

And there, where quietness is seldom known

While armies clash they move and feel the sun

As crushed plants take their respite gratefully

Whispering among them "The fair dead

Must all have known such moments, when the sun

Is warm and soothing to the frosted hand"

Enjoying the last glad wavering hours they know —

Soon all the lovable thoughts that moved from them

Swept from the mind of them in their departure —

THE DEAD

Where is the bravery of these youths in their dying?

Brought up to battle we took the offensive quickly

We kept our pride —

paid for it with our lives

We found the nadir we had shunned in dreams

Falling from the cliff among the shrieks of gulls

Reaching the crags below before we woke …

FIRST VOICE

These fought bravely for their country

Even some disbelieving

Some quick to battle

Some eager for adventure

Some from fear of weakness …

Died some "pro patria"

Walked bravely to hell for their country and traditions —

But now men have forgotten anger, and ambuscade —

The heated hand on the sword and the blood's rising

These have made killing their only business

Bored to an inch of extinction in the killing …

SECOND VOICE

Now is the time to flee while the danger is absent

The days of life forbid the ravelling of lengthy

Hopes;

Night and the fabled Dead are near —

YOUTH

The still before the storm … I cannot wait for the

Crushing wave to swamp my happiness

The sky is ocean-deep and colourless

A ghastly still's in the air …

impending thunder

What if the storm should break and find us unready? …

This tells the ears what filters through my veins

The sense of doom …

this fatal clarity

Is sent to warn me of the destruction to follow —

THIRD VOICE

Men's fates are already set

There is no need of asking fortune-tellers

They will have brought this evil on themselves

For here are a million people surly with traffic

Each with his hereditary dower of instability

Each on his way to become a commercial corsair

Each with his fill of hollow aspirations

Competing with one another in the tawdry

Glitter and speed of machines, — mechanical mania —

Unable in the supervening blankness

Of middle age to sift the good from evil

Taking it all as one —

their only dread

Unpopularity and social inconsequence …

These need a cleansing, some all-purging tempest

To shake the stagnant pool of their convictions

Leaving with them fresh hopes as after a nightmare

For then the strange night-wonder will be upon them

These will stare as dream-awakened men in wonder

As in the Bardo the smug earth-passion dies

For now the moth-hour of their day is upon them —

FIRST VOICE

Yes and soon will come the cathartic energy

Which, skating on the slender ice of their life

These wrought themselves

in over-confidence

Trusting the thin weak crust of their melting traditions

To keep them from the icy depth below

But suddenly the ice will melt from under them

Plunging them into the vast abyss of War

Victims of their own self-germinated hell …

YOUTH

Then it seems that I am doomed to meet extinction

And all my loves and hates will die with me

No force is left to save me from this waste

This careful shaping of a life in vain

Which must, before it lives, find time to die!

THE DEAD

We who are gone where the grey winds call to you

— You, flesh-shrouded frame that bears the secret —

Beseech you not to leave it undiscovered

A short time hence you will be dead as we are

And the secret, hardly known, will die with you

Returning useless with your dust to rot

Returning as a taunt to all the dead

Reminding us of our own great failure, who

Have lived and died

— and left the truth unfound

For after death it is too late to discover

The secret that the living must unveil —

You cannot dig men's hearts up from the dust

And think to tell their secrets from their bones

You cannot stare between their eyepits thinking

To solve the riddle of Eternity

For when you are dead you will become as we are

Rising again but formless in the rising

Intangible fluids that were once alive

Who once had trod the avenue of Life

As you do now —

we strove in vain to find

The secret of our living

for without it

Each buried dust and mouldered skeleton

Finds in the grave fit mould, fit place of rot.

 

YOUTH

Now I have heard the voices of the dead

I have read out the writing on the wall

And wearied out my brain upon the secret

And torn my mind against the jagged dark

And still I find no answer to it all!

CHORUS

All that is asked of you is Trust and Hope

Without these Man is as some animal

That gropes in sea-pools with its tentacles

That reaches up and out for Truth beneath

The slow green surgings of the underwave

Until abandonment of self to God

Brings hope into the algae of the soul.

Here is the secret of your time of living

Given to you to find before your dying

Without it you can never find that faith

Which all must have before they come to their God.

YOUTH

What hope is there that I shall live again?

— For Life bore in, soon it must bear away

Can I, a wretched puppet of a man

With death before him struggle to improve

This hollow shell within himself —

this soul

This fabrication built of Autumn roses

Which soon must wither on the ground?

—What is

Religion but an anodyne to Life?

CHORUS

Above the bones and the grave

Motionless, placed for ever

Motionless, even in Time

Safeguard of Grief

Defence of Despair

There stands the Highest Paragon of Men

Whom some call Love or Truth —

and others God;

And from that Fount of Sense Untenable

There springs the Source of Life and Happiness

A cool Oasis in the Desert of Life

Where all that lives spreads out from the hands of God

In wider circles through the Lake of Night

In which His hand has dropped the stone of Life.

 

YOUTH

Can He give me dawnlight at evening?

Can the Twilight of my hopes be turned to morning?

Can He let form within my hands once more

The present, cradled as a glass of wine

Before it drains to a modest nothingness?

Great minds have sought Him

— lacking someone else

He has been second always. Pitiful?

— A God who's always taken second place

That might prove useful and yet never proves

That never fits a corner or shows use —

 

CHORUS

Did you forget so soon, O faithless man,

How in the time of winter's frost and snow

One coming

gave His life that you might live

And saved the soul of you?

He came with kindness

With freedom on his lips,

but, scorning, you

Believed Him not —

Whose words you might have learned

But now must read unseen —

Can you not hear

A Gentle Voice that sounded down the Ages

Coming a long way off as over water.

"I am the Way, the Truth, the Light;

no man

Cometh unto the Father but by Me"?

 

YOUTH

At last I see! The whirling tissue of thought

Grows firm beneath me —

now can be seen the motive

That led the saints down their forbidden roads

Who leaped the toothed and cragged crevasse of Death

At their Ordainer's word

ignoring Time

Whom they left to hone and whet his blade alone.

What faith is this, that trusts when hope is dead!

What hope is this, that hopes when faith has flown!

Their eyes are as those of a maid to her lover. These

Questing and passive bore His news to their brothers

Who had no thought for themselves in the face of danger …

Now that these haunting fears have gone their way

— Importunate talons that clutch my heart in vain —

I am glad of a life no longer fugitive,

Glad of the accident of being alive!

CHORUS

Give you His glories their longevity

Brave you the strange vicissitudes of Time

And thank Him for the abandon of His giving

Cease doubting what is shadow, what is flesh

What matters it to you except that God

Has pierced your stubborn heart, — and come alive?

Source: The Complete Works of John Magee, The Pilot Poet, This England Books, 1989

©2011 - 2017 Kathryn Gabriel Loving. All rights reserved.

 

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