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Abstract

In his wartime writing, Falling through Space, Richard Hillary reveals the perspective of a Royal Air Force pilot which leads to a contemplation of existence between two zones: the tragic and the trivial. Aviation literature from this period, in fact, leads to contemplation of the opposing spaces of existence once left only to poets: earth and sky. The middle space between these two, between elevation and rooted humanity, is the topic of this paper.

Building from a series excerpts from literature, I will address the plight of the poet in particular, and of mankind in general. The unique aviator viewpoint, the literal bird’s eye view, helps to concretize a poetic interpretation of our existence that fluctuates between these two spaces according to our spiritual and intellectual adroitness.

This paper aims to illustrate the dichotomy between the elevated perspective of flying and the gravitation of our own humanity through a survey of literary works, including John Gillespie Magee, Jr.’s “High Flight,” Richard Hillary’s Falling through Space, and the following French texts translated into English: "Birds" and "On Poetry" by Saint-John Perse; Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; and "Elevation" and “Albatross” from The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire. More importantly, it proposes that the effort of negotiating the inner space between these can be fruitful for our self-confidence and general sense of belonging.