Wilfred Owen – ‘Futility’

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 uses many specific features that amount to his individual poetry which include:

  • opening creates a chaotic scene of war with the use of an anonymous character – “him”
  • use of nature as disapproval of war with use of religious language “fields unsown” “rouse”
  • rhetorical questions are used to draw the reader to his views and opinions on war and it’s consequences “too hard to stir?” “Was it for this the clay grew tall?”
  • punctuation is used to emphasis pauses within his statements and emphasis on specific viewpoints “Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides….”
  • contrast in setting with growing life as  a farmer and in the army surrounded by death also extended oxymoron of “cold Star”
  • assonance

Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Futility’ demonstrates his beliefs and faith in the power of the sun and life that has been shattered, he has lost his awe and wonder in mans creation. Themes included in the poem are helplessness that death in war is inevitable, sadness and loss at the loss of all soldiers and the effects of conflict not only on the people that are affected but the economic and financial state of countries and the future stability of countries.


‘Wilfred Owen’

  • Wilfred Owen was born 1893 and died 1918
  • He was born in Oswestry (Wales) and was brought up in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury
  • He is particularly well known for his interpretations of War poetry
  • He enlisted in the British Army in 1915


1893 – 18 March – Born Plas Wilmot, Oswestry.

1897 – Family moves to Birkenhead.

1906 – Family moves to Shrewsbury.

1911 – Wilfred becomes a lay assistant at Dunsden.

1913 – FebruaryLeaves Dunsden and returns home ill.

September – To Bordeaux, France to teach English in the Berlitz School.

1914 – June – Tutoring in a family at Bagneres de Bigorre, in the Pyrenees.Meets French poet Laurent Tailhade.

December – Tutoring in an English family in Bordeaux.

1915- May to June – Back to France after a brief visit home.

October – Returns to England and enlists in 3/28th London Regiment which shortly afterwards became the 2nd Artists Rifles Officers Training Corps.

1916 – June Commissioned into the Manchester Regiment. Reports to 5th (Reserve) Bn. Manchester Regiment at Milford Camp, Near Witley. With friend 2/Lt Gregg (later kia) devises improvement to gas mask.

7th July – Arrives at Talavera Barracks, Aldershot where he is attached to 25th Bn.Middlesex Regt. (C.O. Lieutenant-Colonel John Ward M.P.) for a Musketry Course at Mychett Camp, Farnborough. The course ends and he is classified “1st Class Shot”. Returns to Witley Camp.

18th November Official end to Battle of Somme.

24th November 2nd Manchesters leave Somme battlefield down to 156 officers and men.

October to November To Southport. In rooms at 168a Lord Street, Southport. To Fleetwood. Takes command of a firing range party. Lodges at 111 Bold Street, Fleetwood.

8th December Back in Southport. Takes charge of Musketry Party on the range at Crossens, nr Southport.

Christmas Embarkation leave.

29th December Folkestone. In transit to join 2nd Manchesters.

1917 1st January Arrives in France, thence to the notorious Infantry Base Depot at Etaples and later to 2nd Manchesters as an Officer reinforcement.

12th January Into the front line at Serre in charge of “A” Company.

Takes half of his platoon and occupies a former German bunker in No Man’s Land and posts a sentry who during a bombardment is blinded. (This incident became the subject of “The Sentry”).

4th February Transport Course at Abbeville.

1st March Rejoins the battalion in the line near Le Quesnoy en Santerre.

14/15th March Suffers concussion following a fall.

17th March Arrives at No.13 Casualty Clearing Station at Gailly.

4th AprilRejoins battalion near Manchester Hill, Selency.

8th/30th April In and out of the line at Savy Wood and in the attack on Dancour trench, St Quentin.

2nd May The C.O., Lieutenant-Colonel Luxmoore, notices that Owen is unwell. Evacuated to No.13 CCS with shell shock.

16th June To Netley Hospital, Hampshire.

25th June Arrives Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh.

Mid August Meets Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves.

October Writes “Anthem for Doomed Youth” and “Dulce et Decorum Est”.

November After leave, is posted to 5th (Reserve) Bn. Manchesters at Scarborough. Acts as mess secretary at Clarence Gardens Hotel (Now Clifton Hotel). (information – The Wilfred Owen Association)