A Poem by Wilfred Owen on His Natal Day

Wilfred Owen was born on March 18, 1893. He was an English poet and a soldier, one of the most memorable and powerful poets of WWI, whose poems depicted the horrors of the trenches and gas warfare. Most of his poems which are now best-known were published posthumously. He suffered shell shock after being caught in the blast of a trench mortar shell, lying unconscious on an embankment among the grisly remains of a fellow officer for days. He was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital  in Edinburgh for treatment. While there, Owen met poet Siegfried Sassoon, who became his friend and mentor as a poet. After further recuperation on light duty in North Yorkshire, he returned to active service in France in July, 1918, and was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery and leadership during an attack in October. He was killed in action on November 4, 1918, exactly one week before the Armistice ended the war. His mother received the notice of his death on the day of the Armistice.

His best-known poems are full of the daily horrors of war, but this poem laments the terrible waste: all the young dead, including Wilfred Owen.

To read Wilfred Owen’s poem “Futility” click


by Wilfred Owen

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?

“Futility” from The War Poems of Wilfred Owen – 2018 edition – Random House UK  

Photo: One of the cemeteries for the dead from the Somme – over 3700 of the graves here are of unidentified soldiers

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