Please explain the poem, especially the second stanza, line by line and word by word. Simplify it as much as you can using simple words.

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Owen was a serving soldier at the Front for several years during the First World War. His poem is set in one of many tunnels through which soldiers traveled on a daily basis—compare Siegfried Sassoon's "The Rear-Guard" for an alternative view on a similar encounter.

The speaker says he is...

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Owen was a serving soldier at the Front for several years during the First World War. His poem is set in one of many tunnels through which soldiers traveled on a daily basis—compare Siegfried Sassoon's "The Rear-Guard" for an alternative view on a similar encounter.

The speaker says he is venturing "down some profound (deep) tunnel" which was scooped out long ago by the impact of war. In the tunnel, there are many "sleepers," most of whom are assumed to be dead bodies ("too deep in thought or death to be bestirred"). However, one of the bodies then suddenly springs upright. His eyes are "fixed," or staring open, and his hands are raised "as if to bless." Because of the man's smile, the speaker becomes aware that the "hall" they stand in must, in fact, be hell.

The face of the vision—thus, we can assume that it is only in the mind of the speaker that he appears—is "pained." In this tunnel beneath the earth, there is no blood, and the thumping sound of guns cannot be heard, so the speaker tells the vision that there is no reason for him to be upset. But the vision says that there is reason to be upset—he explains that he is "the enemy you killed, my friend." Yesterday, the speaker killed this man whom he now sees as a vision, but the vision does not appear to be resentful—instead, he suggests, "let us sleep now."

The suggestion of the poem is that the speaker feels guilt about the men he has killed, but does not feel as if they are truly enemies—instead, they are "strange friend[s]" who will ultimately sleep together in death.

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Wilfred Owen was one of the most important poets to write about World War I.  "Strange Meeting," like many of his poems, expresses a very negative attitude about the horrors and futility of war.

The narrator describes his descent into a "profound dull tunnel."  He seems to be describing the journey of his soul into Hell after death.

He finds there many encumbered (burdened) sleepers, meaning dead people.  These people are "too fast" in thought or death to be stirred from their "sleep."  "Fast" in this sentence means tightly or strongly, as in the expression "fast asleep," or as in the word "fasten."

One man, however, jumps and stares at the narrator as if he recognizes him.  This man lifts distressed hands as if he wants to bless the narrator.

At the end of the poem, the narrator comes to realize a terrible truth: this man who befriends him in Hell is the same man that he previously killed on the battlefield.

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