monday verse: futility


Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
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?

Futility by Wilfred Owen

I’ve chosen this poem for Remembrance Day, which is on the 11th November. It’s a much more intimate, small-scale poem than some of Owen’s, but for me this makes it all the more poignant and moving. Maybe one tragic death is easier to comprehend than millions.

The tree in the photograph is one of an avenue of limes planted along the road into the Yorkshire village of East Keswick, in memory of the men from the village who lost their lives in the 1914-18 war. Each tree carries the name of one of the fallen, and each bears its own poppy in November. The inscription on the village war memorial reads as follows:

This Monument
is erected and the Lime
Trees planted to the
lasting memory and
unfading Glory of the
men of East Keswick
who gave their lives
in the Great War.

2 thoughts on “monday verse: futility

  1. The perfect choice for Armastice – thank you for wedding such a touching image (and I had no idea about this avenue but it surely is the most appropriate and poignant memorial to the fallen in a country village) with Owen’s heartbreaking words.

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