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Roy’s Story: ‘Futility’ Monday, 15 March 2010

Posted by edincityoflit in Stories.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has supported Carry a Poem 2010 by asking artists featured in our February concerts to tell us about their favourite poems. These were published in 3,120 concert programmes during the month.

Roy McEwan – SCO Managing Director

The First World War was a personal tragedy for Wilfred Owen but its transformational power on the maturity and depth of his poetry has given us a rich legacy which I have always found moving. Although this is a bleak poem it is also full of humanity and conveys the transience of human life without diminishing its significance. The intense beauty of these two short verses, while bittersweet, express the importance of human existence and aspirations in the wider and terrifying context of the bigger landscape we are part of.

War and the associated sacrifices are more in our minds now than they have been for a long time and Owen’s expression of ‘the pity of War’ in his poetry has universal relevance – if not something to have in one’s pocket, certainly something to carry in one’s head.


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 faruous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?

by Wilfred Owen


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