'Strange Meeting' by Wilfred Owen

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

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Haunting Beauty of Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting

As a literary masterpiece, Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting” is a hauntingly beautiful and poignant poem that has captured the hearts and minds of poetry enthusiasts for generations. The poem, which was written during World War I, is a moving portrayal of the horrors of war and the devastating effects it has on the human psyche. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, literary devices, and the overall impact of Owen’s “Strange Meeting”.

Background and Inspiration

Wilfred Owen was a British soldier who fought in World War I, and his experiences during the war greatly influenced his poetry. Owen enlisted in the army in 1915, and by 1917, he was sent to the Western Front, where he was eventually diagnosed with shell shock. During his time in the trenches, he witnessed the brutality of war firsthand, and it is these experiences that inspired his poetry.

“Strange Meeting” was written in 1918, just a few months before Owen’s death. The poem was written during a period of intense creativity for Owen, and it is considered one of his greatest works.


One of the central themes of “Strange Meeting” is the horror and futility of war. The poem portrays the war as a pointless and senseless slaughter of young men, and it highlights the emotional toll that war takes on those who fight in it. Throughout the poem, Owen emphasizes the idea that war destroys human lives and leaves nothing but pain and suffering in its wake.

Another theme of the poem is the power of human compassion and the importance of empathy. In “Strange Meeting”, Owen portrays the enemy soldier not as a faceless enemy, but as a human being with his own experiences and emotions. The poem suggests that if people could see each other as individuals with their own unique stories, the world would be a much more peaceful place.

Literary Devices

Owen uses a variety of literary devices in “Strange Meeting” to convey his message. One of the most prominent devices used in the poem is imagery. Owen uses vivid and evocative descriptions to create a powerful sense of the horror and devastation of war. For example, in the opening lines of the poem, he describes the battlefield as “the hell where youth and laughter go”. This image immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem and draws the reader in.

Another literary device that Owen uses in the poem is symbolism. The meeting between the two soldiers is symbolic of the meeting of two opposing forces, and it highlights the similarities between them. The fact that the two soldiers are both dead is also symbolic, as it suggests that war destroys both sides equally.

Owen also uses metaphor in “Strange Meeting”. For example, when the soldier says that “the truth untold, the pity of war, the pity war distilled”, he is using war as a metaphor for the human experience. The “truth untold” refers to the fact that people often hide their true feelings and emotions, while “the pity of war” represents the suffering that people endure in life.


“Strange Meeting” is a complex and multi-layered poem that can be interpreted in a number of different ways. At its core, the poem is a critique of war and the destructive effects it has on the human psyche. Owen portrays the soldiers not as heroes, but as victims of a senseless and brutal conflict.

At the same time, the poem is also a celebration of human compassion and empathy. Owen suggests that if people could see each other as unique individuals with their own stories, they would be less likely to engage in violence and war.

The meeting between the two soldiers is also symbolic of the meeting of different cultures and nations. The fact that the two soldiers are able to find common ground and connect with each other despite their differences is a powerful statement about the importance of understanding and empathy.


In conclusion, Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting” is a literary masterpiece that continues to inspire and move readers today. The poem’s themes of war, compassion, and empathy are as relevant today as they were when the poem was first written. By using powerful imagery, symbolism, and metaphor, Owen creates a hauntingly beautiful and poignant portrayal of the human cost of war. For poetry enthusiasts and lovers of great literature, “Strange Meeting” is a work that cannot be missed.

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 is a reflection on the futility of war and the human cost of conflict. It is a deeply moving work that captures the essence of the war experience and the profound impact it had on those who fought and died in the trenches.

The poem begins with the speaker describing his journey through a dark and desolate landscape. He is searching for his way back to the trenches, but instead he stumbles upon a soldier who is also lost. The two men recognize each other as enemies, but they soon realize that they are not so different after all. They are both soldiers, both caught up in the same war, and both struggling to make sense of the senseless violence around them.

As the poem unfolds, the two men engage in a dialogue that is both poignant and profound. They share their stories and their fears, and they begin to see each other as human beings rather than as enemies. The speaker realizes that the soldier he has met is not so different from himself, and he begins to feel a sense of empathy and compassion for him.

The soldier tells the speaker that he died in battle, and that he is now trapped in a kind of purgatory. He is haunted by the memories of the war, and he longs for the peace and tranquility of death. The speaker is moved by the soldier’s plight, and he begins to see the war in a new light. He realizes that the war is not just a battle between two armies, but a struggle between life and death, between hope and despair.

The poem reaches its climax when the soldier reveals his identity to the speaker. He is the speaker’s own reflection, his own alter ego. The two men are one and the same, and the soldier’s death is a metaphor for the speaker’s own spiritual death. The soldier’s journey through purgatory is a reflection of the speaker’s own journey through the horrors of war.

The poem ends with a sense of hope and redemption. The speaker realizes that he has the power to change the course of his own life, and that he can choose to live a life of compassion and empathy. He sees the soldier’s death as a wake-up call, a reminder that life is precious and that every moment counts. He vows to live his life with purpose and meaning, and to honor the memory of those who have died in the war.

Strange Meeting is a masterpiece of modern poetry, a work that captures the essence of the human experience in times of war. It is a deeply moving and thought-provoking work that challenges us to confront the realities of war and to seek a path of redemption and hope. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the human spirit and to inspire us to live our lives with purpose and meaning.

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