I started looking for a Leonardo da Vinci quote about flying for a song I’m rolling in my head, and have ended up with acres of quotes, which I’ve whittled down to pre-1930s. There is no doubt in my mind that some of these will sneak their way into one or two of the songs.
The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? —it is the same the angels breathe.
— Mark Twain, Roughing It, Chapter XXII, 1886
Sometimes, flying feels too godlike to be attained by man. Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see
— Charles A. Lindbergh, The Spirit of St. Louis, 1953
You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky.
— Amelia Earhart
My soul is in the sky.
— William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V. Scene I..
More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.
— Wilbur Wright
By day, or on a cloudless night, a pilot may drink the wine of the gods, but it has an earthly taste; he’s a god of the earth, like one of the Grecian deities who lives on worldly mountains and descended for intercourse with men. But at night, over a stratus layer, all sense of the planet may disappear. You know that down below, beneath that heavenly blanket is the earth, factual and hard. But it’s an intellectual knowledge; it’s a knowledge tucked away in the mind; not a feeling that penetrates the body. And if at times you renounce experience and mind’s heavy logic, it seems that the world has rushed along on its orbit, leaving you alone flying above a forgotten cloud bank, somewhere in the solitude of interstellar space.
— Charles A. Lindbergh, The Spirit of St. Louis, 1953.
Flying was a very tangible freedom. In those days, it was beauty, adventure, discovery — the epitome of breaking into new worlds.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, introduction to Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, 1929.
Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved. There was science in each curve of an airfoil, in each angle between strut and wire, in the gap of a spark plug or the color of the exhaust flame. There was freedom in the unlimited horizon, on the open fields where one landed. A pilot was surrounded by beauty of earth and sky. He brushed treetops with the birds, leapt valleys and rivers, explored the cloud canyons he had gazed at as a child. Adventure lay in each puff of wind.
I began to feel that I lived on a higher plane than the skeptics of the ground; one that was richer because of its very association with the element of danger they dreaded, because it was freer of the earth to which they were bound. In flying, I tasted a wine of the gods of which they could know nothing. Who valued life more highly, the aviators who spent it on the art they loved, or these misers who doled it out like pennies through their antlike days? I decided that if I could fly for ten years before I was killed in a crash, it would be a worthwhile trade for an ordinary life time.
— Charles A. Lindbergh, The Spirit of St. Louis.
I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things …
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things.
The soul that knows it not knows no release from little things.
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights, where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.
— Amelia Earhart
[I’m] getting housemaid’s knee kneeling here gulping beauty.
— Amelia Earhart, comment in logbook, 1928.
Sometimes I feel a strange exhilaration up here which seems to come from something beyond the mere stimulus of flying. It is a feeling of belonging to the sky, of owning and being owned — if only for a moment – by the air I breathe. It is akin to the well known claim of the swallow: each bird staking out his personal bug-strewn slice of heaven, his inviolate property of the blue.
— Guy Murchie, ‘Song of the Sky,’ 1954.
Travelers are always discoverers, especially those who travel by air. There are no signposts in the air to show a man has passed that way before. There are no channels marked. The flier breaks each second into new uncharted seas.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, North to the Orient, 1935
To most people, the sky is the limit. To those who love aviation, the sky is home.
They shall mount up with wings as eagles.
— Isaiah 40:31.
We who fly do so for the love of flying. We are alive in the air with this miracle that lies in our hands and beneath our feet.
— Cecil Day Lewis
Flying alone! Nothing gives such a sense of mastery over time over mechanism, mastery indeed over space, time, and life itself, as this.
— Cecil Day Lewis
Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the word, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite.
— Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra, President of Ecuador.
Until now I have never really lived! Life on earth is a creeping, crawling business. It is in the air that one feels the glory of being a man and of conquering the elements. There is an exquisite smoothness of motion and the joy of gliding through space. It is wonderful!
— Gabriele D’Annunzio, 1909.
Flying has always been to me this wonderful metaphor. In order to fly you have to trust what you can’t see. Up on the mountain ridges where very few people have been I have thought back to what every flyer knows. That there is this special world in which we dwell that’s not marked by boundaries, it’s not a map. We’re not hedged about with walls and desks. So often in an office the very worst thing that can happen is you could drop your pencil. Out there’s a reminder that are a lot worse things, and a lot greater rewards.
— Richard Bach, television interview.
Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
— Psalms 55:6.
When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with all other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.
— John Muir, Travels in Alaska, 1915.
I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty. That the reasons flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying.
— Amelia Earhart.
The great bird will take its first flight … filling the world with amazement and all records with its fame, and it will bring eternal glory to the nest where it was born.
— Leonardo da Vinci
A sky as pure as water bathed the stars and brought them out.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, first sentence of Southern Mail, 1929.
What freedom lies in flying, what Godlike power it gives to men … I lose all consciousness in this strong unmortal space crowded with beauty, pierced with danger.
— Charles A. Lindbergh
Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price.
— Amelia Earhart
A man can criticize a pilot for flying into a mountainside in fog, but I would rather by far die on a mountainside than in bed. What sort of man would live where there is no daring? Is life itself so dear that we should blame one for dying in adventure? Is there a better way to die?
— Charles A. Lindbergh
How many more years I shall be able to work on the problem I do not know; I hope, as long as I live. There can be no thought of finishing, for ‘aiming at the stars’ both literally and figuratively, is a problem to occupy generations, so that no matter how much progress one makes, there is always the thrill of just beginning.
— Robert H. Goddard, in a 1932 letter to H. G. Wells.
I think it is a pity to lose the romantic side of flying and simply to accept it as a common means of transport, although that end is what we have all ostensibly been striving to attain.
— Amy Johnson, Sky Roads of the World, 1939.
Aeronautics confers beauty and grandeur, combining art and science for those who devote themselves to it… . The aeronaut, free in space, sailing in the infinite, loses himself in the immense undulations of nature. He climbs, he rises, he soars, he reigns, he hurtles the proud vault of the azure sky …
— Georges Besançon, founder of the first successful aviation journal L’Aérophile, February 1902.
Live thy life as it were spoil and pluck the joys that fly.
— Martial, Epigrams, A.D. 86.
These bright roofs, these steep towers, these jewel-lakes, these skeins of railroad line — all spoke to her and she answered. She was glad they were there. She belonged to them and they to her… . She had not lost it. She was touching it with her fingertips. This was flying: to go swiftly over the earth you loved, touching it lightly with your fingertips, holding the railroads lines in your hand to guide you, like a skein of wool in a spider-web game — like following Ariadne’s thread through the Minotaur’s maze, Where would it lead, where?
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Steep Ascent, 1944.
I don’t understand these people anymore, that travel the commuter-trains to their dormitory towns. These people that call themselves human, but, by a pressure they do not feel, are forced to do their work like ants. With what do they fill their time when they are free of work on their silly little Sundays?
I am very fortunate in my profession. I feel like a farmer, with the airstrips as my fields. Those that have once tasted this kind of fare will not forget it ever. Not so, my friends? It is not a question of living dangerously. That formula is too arrogant, too presumptuous. I don’t care much for bull-fighters. It’s not the danger I love. I know what I love. It is life itself.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939.
And if flying, like a glass-bottomed bucket, can give you that vision, that seeing eye, which peers down on the still world below the choppy waves — it will always remain magic.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, North to the Orient, 1935.
To fly! to live as airmen live! Like them to ride the skyways from horizon to horizon, across rivers and forests! To free oneself from the petty disputes of everyday life, to be active, to feel the blood renewed in one’s vein — ah! that is life… . Life in finer and simpler. My will is freer. I appreciate everything more, sunlight and shade, work and my friends. The sky is vast. I breathe deep gulps of the fine clear air of the heights. I feel myself to have achieved a higher state of physical strength and a clearer brain. I am living in the third dimension!
— Henri Mignoet, L’Aviation de L’Amateur; Le Sport de l’Air,1934.
Many wonderful inventions have surprised us during the course of the last century and the beginning of this one. But most were completely unexpected and were not part of the old baggage of dreams that humanity carries with it. Who had ever dreamed of steamships, railroads, or electric light? We welcomed all these improvements with astonished pleasure; but they did not correspond to an expectation of our spirit or a hope as old as we are: to overcome gravity, to tear ourselves away from the earth, to become lighter, to fly away, to take possession of the immense aerial kingdom; to enter the universe of the Gods, to become Gods ourselves.
— Jerome Tharaud, ‘Dans le ciel des dieux,’ in Les Grandes Conferences de l’aviation: Recits et souvenirs, 1934.