“Futility” by Wilfred Owen

 (one of my favorite poems ever)

Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,wilfred-owen
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds,—
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved—still warm—too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?

Wilfred Owen wrote some of the best British poetry on World War I.

This poem is my favorite poem of his. Has anyone else ever heard of him? Is anyone else as amazed by his poetry as I am?

6 thoughts on ““Futility” by Wilfred Owen

  1. We were lucky to be taught about him and his work in High School. My favorite is below. Guy McClung

    [Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace’s Odes (III.2.13). The line can be translated as: “It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country.”]

    Dulce et Decorum Est


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    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

    Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.



  2. That is an amazing poem- “Dulce et Decorum…” with what tragic truth does he explain war. I hate the media blackout on the war that has been enacted as soon as there was a Democratic President. When the Republican was president, everyday there was a body count of those dead, (those killed and those who committed suicide) special news briefs to tell us of the atrocities of war, and quiet somber voices in the media to tell us the war was a mistake. The complete shift and reversal of those war protesters and the media, who were immediately silent after the republican president left office, made me realize that it was all politics. To see the news everyday, you’d never know we were at war. That there is suffering that is happening. It seems they want to look the other way to the atrocities.
    Some say that we do care, “Why look at the refugees” but they won’t allow Christian refugees, (whom the Muslim refugees won’t allow in their camps- ) in our nation.-only Muslim ones. Makes me think this is some sick plot.
    As far as that last line “Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori” (It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country) it would depend on the reason. When we were fighting Hitler and saving the lives of innocent civilians, Jews, Catholics, and anyone who helped them,- then yes, I would have believed it would be glorious to die for one’s country.
    I’m sure Wilfred Owen was so sick of the death he saw all around him especially the young ones: “Around 250,000 underage boys also volunteered; either by lying about their age or giving false names which recruiters often turned a blind eye to.”


  3. If you haven’t already read it, you might want to read Pat Barker’s World War I trilogy, starting with Regeneration, which has Wilfred Owen as a central character. It’s a fine piece of work. It feels a bit disjointed at first, but give it a few pages and you’ll get used to the style.


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