'Futility' by Wilfred Owen
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1 Move him into the sun--
2 Gently its touch awoke him once,
3 At home, whispering of fields unsown.
4 Always it awoke him, even in France,
5 Until this morning and this snow.
6 If anything might rouse him now
7 The kind old sun will know.
8 Think how it wakes the seeds--
9 Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
10 Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
11 Full-nerved,--still warm,--too hard to stir?
12 Was it for this the clay grew tall?
13 --O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
14 To break earth's sleep at all?
Editor 1 Interpretation
Futility by Wilfred Owen: An Exploration of the Nature of War and Human Existence
As the casualties of World War I mounted, Wilfred Owen turned to poetry to express his disillusionment with the war and the senseless loss of human life. In his poem "Futility," Owen reflects on the futility of war and the powerlessness of human beings in the face of death.
"Futility" begins with a description of a dead soldier lying in the sun. The speaker of the poem wonders why the sun cannot bring the soldier back to life, and questions the point of sending young men to fight and die in war. The speaker contemplates the fact that the soldier was once full of life and energy, and wonders what could have caused his death.
The second stanza of the poem is addressed directly to the sun. The speaker asks the sun to "wake" the soldier and bring him back to life. The speaker pleads with the sun to use its power to reverse the course of events, and to undo the death that has occurred.
In the third stanza, the speaker reflects on the fact that the soldier's body was once warm and full of life, but is now cold and lifeless. The speaker wonders what the point of life is, if it is so easily snuffed out by war and death.
The final stanza of the poem is a plea for peace. The speaker asks God to end the war and bring an end to the senseless loss of human life. The speaker expresses the hope that someday, human beings will be able to live in peace and harmony, without the need for war and violence.
The Nature of War
One of the central themes of "Futility" is the nature of war and the senselessness of the loss of human life that it entails. Owen was a soldier himself, and he had seen firsthand the devastation and horror of war. In "Futility," he reflects on the fact that young men are sent to fight and die in wars that they do not understand or believe in.
Owen's use of the word "futility" in the title of the poem is significant. The word suggests a sense of hopelessness and pointlessness, and reflects the speaker's belief that war is ultimately futile. Despite the efforts of soldiers and commanders, war cannot bring back the dead or undo the damage that has been done.
The image of the dead soldier lying in the sun is a powerful one, and serves as a reminder of the human cost of war. The soldier's body is described in detail, from the "round earth's shore" of his face to the "half life" that still seems to linger in his body. The speaker's plea to the sun to bring the soldier back to life is a desperate one, reflecting the sense of helplessness that many soldiers felt in the face of death.
The Power of Nature
Another important theme in "Futility" is the power of nature, and the way in which it seems to contrast with the powerlessness of human beings. The sun is described as a powerful force, capable of bringing life to the world and sustaining all living creatures. Yet despite its power, the sun cannot bring the dead soldier back to life.
The contrast between the power of nature and the powerlessness of human beings is a recurring theme in Owen's poetry. In many of his poems, he explores the idea that nature is indifferent to the suffering of human beings, and that the forces of nature are often more powerful than the forces of war or human will.
The Fragility of Human Life
Finally, "Futility" is a poem that reflects on the fragility of human life, and the fact that it is easily snuffed out by war and violence. The soldier in the poem was once full of life and energy, but is now cold and lifeless. The speaker's contemplation of the soldier's body is a reminder of the fact that human life is temporary and fragile, and that it can be snuffed out at any moment.
The final stanza of the poem is a plea for peace, and reflects the speaker's belief that war is ultimately pointless and destructive. The speaker expresses the hope that someday, human beings will be able to live in peace and harmony, without the need for war and violence.
In "Futility," Wilfred Owen reflects on the nature of war and the senseless loss of human life that it entails. The poem is a powerful reminder of the human cost of war, and the fragility of human life. Through his use of imagery and language, Owen creates a haunting portrait of a dead soldier, and explores the power of nature and the powerlessness of human beings in the face of death. Ultimately, "Futility" is a plea for peace and an expression of hope that someday, human beings will be able to live in harmony, without the need for war and violence.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Futility: A Poem of Despair and Hopelessness
Wilfred Owen's "Futility" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of death, loss, and the futility of war. Written during World War I, the poem reflects the poet's own experiences of the horrors of war and the sense of hopelessness that pervaded the soldiers' lives. In this analysis, we will explore the meaning and significance of "Futility" and examine how Owen uses language and imagery to convey his message.
The poem begins with a simple and direct statement: "Move him into the sun." The speaker, presumably a soldier, is addressing his comrades, urging them to move the body of a fallen comrade into the sunlight. The use of the imperative "move" suggests a sense of urgency and the need for action. The word "him" is significant, as it emphasizes the individuality and humanity of the fallen soldier. The phrase "into the sun" is also significant, as it suggests a desire to bring the soldier back to life, to revive him with the warmth and energy of the sun.
The second stanza continues the theme of loss and despair. The speaker asks, "Was it for this the clay grew tall?" The use of the word "clay" suggests the fragility and impermanence of human life, while the phrase "grew tall" suggests the potential and promise of life. The question is rhetorical, as the speaker knows that there is no answer. The third line, "O what made fatuous sunbeams toil," suggests a sense of futility and uselessness, as if the sun's rays are wasted on a world that is full of death and destruction. The final line of the stanza, "To break earth's sleep at all?" suggests a desire to awaken the dead, to bring them back to life, but also a sense of hopelessness and despair, as if such a thing is impossible.
The third stanza introduces a new theme, that of the futility of war. The speaker asks, "Was it not good this clay should be?" The use of the word "good" suggests a moral judgment, as if the speaker is questioning the purpose and justification of war. The phrase "for such a guest is meet" suggests that death is a natural and inevitable part of life, but also a sense of resignation and acceptance. The final line, "And now we lie in Flanders fields," is significant, as it refers to the famous poem by John McCrae, "In Flanders Fields," which describes the graves of fallen soldiers in Belgium. The reference to McCrae's poem suggests a sense of continuity and connection between the soldiers of different nations and different wars.
The fourth stanza returns to the theme of loss and despair. The speaker asks, "What candles may be held to speed them all?" The use of the word "candles" suggests a desire to honor and remember the dead, but also a sense of futility and uselessness, as if such gestures are meaningless in the face of death. The phrase "not in the hands of boys" suggests a sense of innocence and vulnerability, as if the soldiers are too young and inexperienced to understand the true nature of war. The final line, "But in their eyes shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes," suggests a sense of hope and redemption, as if the soldiers' sacrifice will be remembered and honored by future generations.
The final stanza brings the poem to a close with a sense of resignation and acceptance. The speaker asks, "And think, this heart, all evil shed away," suggesting a desire to transcend the horrors of war and find a sense of peace and redemption. The phrase "a pulse in the eternal mind" suggests a sense of continuity and connection between all human beings, as if the soldiers' sacrifice will be remembered and honored for all time. The final line, "No less they midnights toil than ours," suggests a sense of equality and shared experience, as if the soldiers' sacrifice is no less important or meaningful than our own struggles and hardships.
In conclusion, "Futility" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of death, loss, and the futility of war. Through his use of language and imagery, Wilfred Owen conveys a sense of despair and hopelessness, but also a sense of hope and redemption. The poem is a testament to the sacrifice and courage of the soldiers who fought and died in World War I, and a reminder of the need to honor and remember their sacrifice.
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