'Strange Meeting' by Wilfred Owen

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It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall;
With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
"Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
"None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something has been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now . . ."

(This poem was found among the author's papers.
It ends on this strange note.)

*Another Version*

Earth's wheels run oiled with blood. Forget we that.
Let us lie down and dig ourselves in thought.
Beauty is yours and you have mastery,
Wisdom is mine, and I have mystery.
We two will stay behind and keep our troth.
Let us forego men's minds that are brute's natures,
Let us not sup the blood which some say nurtures,
Be we not swift with swiftness of the tigress.
Let us break ranks from those who trek from progress.
Miss we the march of this retreating world
Into old citadels that are not walled.
Let us lie out and hold the open truth.
Then when their blood hath clogged the chariot wheels
We will go up and wash them from deep wells.
What though we sink from men as pitchers falling
Many shall raise us up to be their filling
Even from wells we sunk too deep for war
And filled by brows that bled where no wounds were.

*Alternative line --*

Even as One who bled where no wounds were.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Strange Meeting" by Wilfred Owen: A Poem of War and Death

As a poet of the First World War, Wilfred Owen's work stands out for its vivid and haunting portrayal of the horrors of war. His poem "Strange Meeting" is one of his most famous works, and with good reason - it is a powerful and moving depiction of the futility and senselessness of war. This literary criticism and interpretation will explore the themes, symbolism, and literary devices used in the poem to analyze its meaning and significance.

Themes of the Poem

At its core, "Strange Meeting" is a poem about the devastating effects of war on both those who fight and those who are caught in the crossfire. The poem explores the themes of death, guilt, and the search for meaning in a world where violence and destruction seem to be the only constants.

Throughout the poem, Owen emphasizes the pointlessness of war and the toll it takes on the soldiers who fight in it. The narrator, a soldier who has died in battle, reflects on his own death and the deaths of his fellow soldiers, wondering what they had been fighting for and feeling a deep sense of regret at the waste of their lives.

The poem also explores the idea of guilt, as the narrator meets with a fellow soldier who he had killed in battle. Their conversation reveals the complex emotions that both soldiers feel - the guilt and remorse of the narrator, and the anger and resentment of the other soldier towards his killer.

Finally, the poem touches on the idea of redemption and the search for meaning in a world that seems devoid of it. The narrator and his fellow soldier find a strange kind of comfort in each other's company, and the poem ends with the suggestion that their meeting may have brought them some measure of peace and understanding.

Symbolism in the Poem

One of the most striking aspects of "Strange Meeting" is its use of symbolism to convey its themes and ideas. The most obvious example is the title itself, which suggests that the meeting between the two soldiers is not just unusual, but somehow otherworldly or supernatural. This sense of strangeness and unreality is reinforced by the descriptions of the landscape they find themselves in - a desolate, ruined wasteland that seems to exist outside of time and space.

Another important symbol in the poem is the river that the soldiers cross. This river is both a physical barrier and a metaphorical one, representing the divide between life and death, innocence and experience, and the past and the present. The soldiers' journey across the river is a metaphor for their journey from life to death, and the sense of loss and regret that comes with it.

Finally, the poem uses the symbol of the helmet to underscore its themes of death and futility. The narrator describes the helmet as "an ancient curse" that has been passed down through generations of soldiers, a symbol of the endless cycle of violence and destruction that characterizes war.

Literary Devices Used in the Poem

In addition to its powerful themes and symbolism, "Strange Meeting" also makes use of a variety of literary devices to create its impact. One of the most notable is Owen's use of repetition, which reinforces the sense of futility and despair that permeates the poem. Phrases like "It seemed that out of battle I escaped/Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped" and "Let us sleep now..." are repeated throughout the poem, creating a sense of rhythm and pattern that reflects the soldiers' own experiences of the war.

Another important literary device in the poem is Owen's use of imagery, which is often stark and brutal. He describes the soldiers' wounds in gruesome detail, painting a vivid picture of the physical and emotional pain they are experiencing. This imagery is designed to shock and unsettle the reader, forcing them to confront the reality of war in a way that is often uncomfortable but always powerful.

Finally, Owen's use of dialogue in the poem is notable for its realism and emotional impact. The conversation between the two soldiers feels authentic and poignant, capturing both the sense of regret and confusion that the narrator feels, and the bitterness and anger of his fellow soldier.


Overall, "Strange Meeting" is a powerful and haunting poem that speaks to the futility and senselessness of war. Through its use of vivid imagery, symbolism, and literary devices, it captures the emotional and psychological toll that war takes on soldiers, and the sense of loss and regret that comes with it. While the poem does not offer any easy answers, it suggests that even in the darkest of times, there is still the possibility of redemption and understanding. It is a poem that continues to resonate with readers today, and remains one of Wilfred Owen's most enduring works.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Strange Meeting: A Poem of War and Redemption

Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting is a powerful and haunting poem that explores the horrors of war and the possibility of redemption. Written during World War I, the poem reflects Owen’s own experiences as a soldier and his deep sense of disillusionment with the war. Through vivid imagery, powerful language, and a complex narrative structure, Owen creates a deeply moving and thought-provoking work that continues to resonate with readers today.

The poem begins with the speaker describing his journey through a dark and desolate landscape, “down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped / Through granites which titanic wars had groined.” The imagery here is stark and foreboding, suggesting the sense of isolation and despair that the speaker feels. As he continues on his journey, he suddenly encounters another soldier, who greets him with the words, “Strange friend, I said, here is no cause to mourn.”

The encounter between the two soldiers is the heart of the poem, and it is here that Owen’s skill as a poet is most evident. The dialogue between the two men is rich and complex, with each revealing their own experiences and emotions. The first soldier, who is the speaker of the poem, is initially wary of the other man, but soon realizes that he is not an enemy. As they talk, the second soldier reveals that he too is a soldier, but that he has died in battle. He tells the speaker that he is now in a place beyond war, where there is no hatred or violence.

The second soldier’s description of this place is one of the most powerful and moving passages in the poem. He speaks of a “strange meeting” that takes place between the soldiers of both sides, where they “shake hands as if they cared / And carried treasure up, and laughed with glee.” This image of enemies coming together in peace and friendship is a powerful one, and it suggests the possibility of redemption even in the midst of war.

The second soldier’s words also reveal the deep sense of loss and regret that he feels about his own death. He speaks of the “pity of war,” and the sense that so much has been lost for so little gain. He tells the speaker that he too will soon die, and that he should use his remaining time to try to make sense of the senseless violence of war.

The poem’s complex narrative structure is also worth noting. The encounter between the two soldiers is not presented in a linear fashion, but rather is revealed through a series of flashbacks and memories. This structure allows Owen to explore the emotional complexity of the encounter in a more nuanced way, and it also adds to the sense of disorientation and confusion that the speaker feels.

Overall, Strange Meeting is a powerful and deeply moving poem that explores the horrors of war and the possibility of redemption. Through vivid imagery, powerful language, and a complex narrative structure, Owen creates a work that continues to resonate with readers today. The poem’s message of peace and reconciliation is as relevant now as it was when it was written, and it serves as a powerful reminder of the human cost of war.

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