You can read the whole poem here.

A trench in WWI. Can you see the clay growing tall?

This poem was written while Owen was posted to Ripon (UK) in May, 1918. Owen went to Ripon after he was in Craiglockhart and before he went back to the front-lines in France. While he was here he revised a number of poems. “Futility” was one of only five of Owen’s poems that were published in his lifetime. (wilfredowen.org).


  • Futility: the quality of being futile. If something is futile it is pointless, useless. e.g. “Resistance is futile!”
  • of fields half-sown: an allusion to farming and incomplete sewing of seeds
  • rouse: awake
  • fatuous: foolish or silly. It can also mean unreal or illusory.

Guiding Questions

  • Where do you think this poem is taking place? What is happening in the opening stanza?
  • What is Owen referring to when he says “the clay grew tall” and breaking earth’s sleep? To understand these images is to understand the central ideas of this poem.
  • What is the connection between the images and descriptions in the poem and the title? What is futile?


The Wilfred Owen Association. “Futility”. Kenneth Simcox, 2000. Online resource.   (http://www.wilfredowen.org.uk/poetry/futility)