The meeting is “strange” because the person the poet meets is his enemy (“I am the enemy you killed, my friend…”). But that is not the only “strange” thing about this meeting. First, it takes place in a world that is like the battlefield, but also somehow other (“It seemed that out of battle I escaped / Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped / Through granites which titanic wars had groined”). This dream-like land, we learn, is hell, even though “no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.” This is a meeting, then, between the dead, yet the tone is solemn rather than horrific.
Second, in this hellish spot the poet addresses one of the dead, telling him (oddly, if this is hell) that “here there is no cause to mourn.” The poet is perhaps instinctively trying to respond to the humanity of the dead soldier, but the soldier gives the poet a quiet rebuke: “’None,’ said that other, ‘save the undone years, / the hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours / was my life also.’” The meaning here is double; the dead soldier is saying that he felt the same hope the poet does, but also that his spirit understood “the truth untold,” the “pity of war,” its madness and waste. Had he lived, he would have “poured my spirit without stint / But not through wounds; not on the cess of war”— there is a sense that his spirit could have promoted peace. And, in as much as the solider’s joys are like the poet’s, then this spirit is within the poet as well.
But the poet has perhaps betrayed that spirit: “I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned / Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.” In recognizing the enemy he has killed, the poet also perhaps recognizes that he has killed something within himself. Whatever promise lay within these men, it has been lost forever.