Futility is a poem by Wilfred Owen, possibly the most renowned poet of the First World War, written in May 1918 and published as no. 153 in The Complete Poems and Fragments. The poem is well known for its departure from Owen's famous style of including disturbing and graphic images in his work; the poem instead having a more soothing, somewhat light-hearted feel to it in comparison. A previous secretary of the Wilfred Owen Association argues that the bitterness in Owen's other poems "gives place to the pity that characterises his finest work". Futility details an event where a group of soldiers attempt to revive an unconscious soldier by moving him into the warm sunlight on a snowy meadow. However, the "kind old sun" has absolutely no effect on the soldier - he has died.
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?
The titular theme of the poem is claimed to be common to many World War I and World War II war poets and to apply not only to war, but human institutions (including religion) and human existence itself. Noting the "religious" nature of the poem's questioning, Cox and Dyson claim that "Futility" is a "poetic equivalent...to the famous Tomb in Westminster Abbey."