Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it awoke 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’s poem Futility seems far more introspective and without the graphic horror of many of Owen’s other famous poems such as Dulce est Decorum est and Anthem for Doomed Youth.
This poem has a sense of quiet sorrow created in part through its elegiac tone that seems more meditative than the rage we find almost ‘spat’ out in many of his other famous poems.
Why is the poem called ‘Futility’? What is the poet edging us towards via this simple yet devastating title- is he referring to war, ‘the pity of war’ or his own feelings of hopelessness and impotence?
The poem opens with a slightly vague gesture, it sounds(ironically) like weary imperative: ‘Move him into the sun-‘ The tone seems tender and caring. The gesture is respectful of the dead man’s character and personal preferences. The poet seems to have knowledge of the man and the word ‘home’, as in so many war poems including Owen’s, is painfully poignant.
‘Home’ is lost forever and these small gestures of care and respect are all that poet can do to mark the tragedy of the soldier’s passing.
The rural life is also evoked through the reference to ‘fields unsown.’ Villages and rural communities are often mentioned in Owen’s poetry almost as a form of lost Eden, tying in with the youth of the soldiers and their ruined, wasted innocence.
The use of assonance in the poem gives the poem a soulful sadness in the sounds created by the poet , suggesting that this is a personal lament.
Owen’s affection for pararhyme communicates the discordancy of death. ‘Things’ don’t quite work together, they sound out of synchronicity somehow, reminding the readers of the arbitrary horror of death. ‘snow’ ‘now’ and ‘know’.
The personified, ‘natural’ benevolence of the ‘kind old sun’ is in despairing, bleak contrast to the unnaturalness of the war. The sun sustains and nurtures life. The war destroys all that nature has so brilliantly and uniquely created.
Why Owen wonders did nature bother to create such natural wonders as ‘seeds’ and human beings only to destroy them in pursuit of power and territory?
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