The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Strange Meeting” is a short elegy lamenting a soldier-poet’s participation in World War I, the most cataclysmic event that had occurred up until that period in recorded history. The poem is written in the first person; it can be safely assumed that Wilfred Owen and the narrator are the same person and that this is Owen’s private journey into hell.

Drawing from many trips into the underworld by characters in earlier literature, Owen seems to escape the horrors of the battlefield; he enters a “profound dull tunnel” where the sounds and scenes of the war are not evident. Noticing that he is not alone, Owen probes one of the “sleepers,” awakening one who seems to recognize him and bless him: “By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.”

Entering into a discussion with the awakened sleeper, Owen informs him that there is no reason to mourn, since the guns and deaths from the battles above are divorced from their presence. The sleeper replies that even though this is true, he grieves over “the undone years,/ The hopelessness.” The sleeper, too, had been a soldier-poet—in fact, he is Owen’s alter ego, and he realizes the effect he might have had on society if he had not been killed but had been allowed to live and continue writing poetry.

The alter ego holds that World War I, considered at that time as the war to end all wars, is only the beginning of conflicts that will plague men for eternity. The calamity is...

(The entire section is 472 words.)