other metaphors of flying

   an ode to newness

Hymn to the times

Of this I sing: the best of times, my own!
A clear autumn, where the blooms of legend lie scattered,
you change the gold and silver of paled myths
      into the steel of reality.

A new fabled beast spreads its wings
of meagre canvas, thin wood and tubing.
The airscrew spins. The earth is obscured by a veil.
      The taut wires sing,

sing the old song of winged horses;
the canvas rustles the song of eagle feathers,
the trembling spars whisper of vanquished Greeks
      and quietly now, of Icarus.

Until the red of dawn, where out of the clouds,
wet in the misty dew and a harsh English
salty breeze, Blériot's sleek sparrow-hawk
      from nineteen hundred and nine

plowed English turf, and thereby opening up
the forbidding cliffs of Dover to the world -
this mystic bird rings true like a harp,
      sings of the new splendour of Time.

The stormy wind itself is it's braying fanfare,
clear as the hunter's bugle, deep like the organ's bass bellow,
a sound like the warrior's brass: To fly
      is what matters, just to be alive is not!

So hands to the joystick! Take off! To fly
is what matters - the screw roars
in great circles of light - we are cast upon the altar
      of the unnamed and unknown.

Karl Vollmoeller, gentleman-pilot and poet (1911)
this is an abbreviated translation of Lob der Zeit


   on change, toys and tools

Using an artful tool does not make one a dry technician. It seems to me that people that are anxious about our technical advancement, confuse means and ends. Naturally a person that only works for material gain will not harvest something that is worth living for. But the machine is not an end in itself. The airplane is not an end. It is a tool. Just like the plough.

When we think that the machine will harm man, then it is perhaps because we are not yet capable of judging the rapid changes it has brought about. We hardly feel at home in this landscape of mines and power stations. We have just moved into this new home that we have not even finished yet. Everything around us has changed so fast - personal relations, working conditions, habits. Even our state of mind is in turmoil.

We are all youthful barbarians, and only our new toys bring us excitement. That has been the sole purpose of our flights. This one flies higher, that one faster. But now we will make ourselves at home. We will forget the machine, the tool. It is no longer complex; it does what it is supposed to do, unnoticed.
And through this tool we will find again the old nature, the nature of the gardener, the navigator, the poet.

Antoine de saint-Exupéry, Terre des hommes (Wind, sand and stars) (1939)


   the future lives in a cloud
Beryl MarkhamSomebody with a flair for small cynicism once said: "We live and do not learn."
But I have learned some things. I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesterdays are buried deep - leave it any way exept a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour, because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. The cloud clears as you enter it. I have learned this, but like everyone, I learned it late.

Beryl Markham, West with the night (1942)


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