“Futility” is a classic 14-line poem by First World War poet Wilfred Owen expressing the pointlessness of war.

By Wilfred Owen

Move him into the sun –
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
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?


  • futility (noun): an inability to produce any useful result; pointlessness
  • awake (awoke, awoken) (verb): to wake up; to waken; to stop sleeping
  • whisper (verb): to speak softly
  • unsown (adjective): without seed; not planted (NB: “fields unsown” = “unsown fields”)
  • rouse (verb): to wake (somebody) up; to stimulate; to animate
  • limb (noun): an arm or a leg
  • fatuous (adjective): silly and without purpose
  • clay (noun): type of earth; earth; soil
  • limb (noun): member of the body (leg, arm)
  • dear-achieved (adjective): costly to create
  • stir (verb): to move; to waken
  • fatuous (adjective): purposeless
  • toil (verb): to work hard; to labour

Futility was written by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), a British poet and soldier in the First World War. He was killed in action a week before the war ended.

Here is a commentary on the poem Futility.

Voiced by Josef Essberger.

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