In memory of Wilfred Owen

A short post today in between meetings and before I spend an evening talking with prospective medical students and helping them prepare for applications to University next year. It’s humbling to think that the sixteen and seventeen year olds that I will be talking to later – full of hope and expectation and with their whole adult lives ahead of them – are the same age as many of the men that went to their deaths in the trenches of France and Belgium during the Great War. Owen himself, one of the greatest English language war poets, was killed in action one week before the Armistice in November 1918. This poem is titled Futility.

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?

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