Strange Meeting, published in 1919, is one of the most characteristic war-poems of Wilfred Owen (1893 - 1918) and at the same time, most moving. Owen had firsthand experience of war and its cruelty as a soldier in the First World War. Being a realist he never glorified war like Rupert Brooke. He wrote, “My subject is war and the pity of war”. He looked upon war as a colossal waste of human life – an evil game played by selfish warmongers with a view to grind their own axes at the cost of innocent young soldiers.
The poem gives us a very pathetic account of what commonly happens in battles. The poet imagines in dream to have escaped from the field and strayed into a gloomy vault cut out long before. The tunnel is strewn with corpses of strangers. They seem to be fast asleep. All on a sudden, one of them jumps up and stands staring at the poet. Then they converse on the pity, futility and brutality of war. At the end of the meeting, the stranger reveals his identity:
“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.”
Nothing exposes the horror and inhuman barbarism of war as starkly as this speech of the dead German soldier. The killer and the killed have no enmity between themselves; nor even do they know each other. Yet, they go on murdering one another under the blind, beastly rage that war brings into play.
The poem overflows with pity for those young men who die on the battlefield with all their promises unfulfilled and the joy of life untasted. The young deceased soldier bewails his death as putting his hopes to naught. The youth pathetically says that his death has deprived the world of the joy that he might have spread among humanity:
“For by my glee might many men have laughed.”
Owen condemns the armchair politicians who cheat on us by propaganda that the shameless bloodshed of war has a benevolent motive. It is this sort of hypocrisy that...
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