Wilfred Owen, selected poems Contents
- Wilfred Owen: Social and political background
- Wilfred Owen: Religious / philosophical context
- Wilfred Owen: Literary context
- Wilfred Owen: 1914
- Wilfred Owen: Anthem for Doomed Youth
- Wilfred Owen: At a Calvary near the Ancre
- Wilfred Owen: Disabled
- Wilfred Owen : Dulce et Decorum Est
- Wilfred Owen: Exposure
- Wilfred Owen: Futility
- Wilfred Owen: Greater Love
- Wilfred Owen: Hospital Barge
- Wilfred Owen: Insensibility
- Wilfred Owen: Inspection
- Wilfred Owen: Le Christianisme
- Wilfred Owen: Mental Cases
- Wilfred Owen: Miners
- Wilfred Owen: S.I.W
- Wilfred Owen: Soldier’s Dream
- Wilfred Owen: Sonnet On Seeing a Piece of Our Heavy Artillery Brought into Action
- Wilfred Owen: Spring Offensive
- Wilfred Owen: Strange Meeting
- Wilfred Owen: The Dead-Beat
- Wilfred Owen: The Last Laugh
- Wilfred Owen: The Letter
- Wilfred Owen: The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
- Wilfred Owen: The Send-Off
- Wilfred Owen: The Sentry
- Wilfred Owen: Wild with All Regrets
Strange Meeting - Synopsis and commentary
Synopsis of Strange Meeting
Owen tells of a dream or vision where, escaping from the war, he travels down into a strange place he realises is Hell. Men lie sleeping or dead but one springs up who seems to recognise him. Owen calls him his ‘strange friend’. This man’s conversation makes up the rest of the poem. He clearly shares Owen’s own philosophy and thoughts for the future. We discover that this character is the man Owen had killed the previous day. He invites the poet to join him in sleep.
Investigating Strange Meeting
- ‘Yet these elegies are not to this generation, this is in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is to warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.’ (From Owen’s planned introduction to his poetry.) What do you think Owen meant by consolatory?
- Why would he not want his poems to be seen in that way?
- What does Strange Meeting add to our understanding of what Owen meant when he said all a poet can do is to warn?
- What truths are told in this poem?
Commentary on Strange Meeting
Strange Meeting is thought to have been written early in 1918, the last year of Owen’s life, while he was training to return to the front. Both Owen’s childhood and wartime nightmares were the source of this poem. Siegfried Sassoon called the poem Owen’s passport to immortality.
With quivering lips and humid eyes;-and all
Seemed like some brothers on a journey wide
Gone forth, whom now strange meeting did befall in a strange land
The idea of meeting your enemy, even the one who had killed you, in a strange No Man's Land is implied in the Shelley poem, as well as the concept of brotherhood. In Strange Meeting Owen creates a situation in which the two men see beyond the war and hatred:
to a place where the truth could be told and friendship established. To access this place Owen has travelled:
Even as a child these sort of dreams had haunted Owen.
As the men in the opening lines of The Send Off went to war ‘down close darkening lanes’, so Owen moves ‘down’ but away from the conflict. The tunnels have been ‘long scooped’, suggesting great age. Their antiquity is further emphasised by Owen’s use of the word ‘Titanic’ to describe the wars by which they have been ‘groined’, an architectural term describing a vaulted roof. ‘Titanic’ relates to size (and Owen would have been very familiar with the events surrounding the sinking of the Titanic in 1912), however the word has its roots in Greek mythology. The first Greek gods were the Titans, who were overthrown in a war with the gods of Mount Olympus. Owen is creating a sense of place which goes back to the dawn of time.
Another source for the setting may have been Owen’s familiarity with the Arthurian legend in which the mythical British King Arthur and his knights sleep in a cavern until they are required to fight again. Growing up on the borders of Wales, Owen could have been familiar with the legend of The Sleeping Warriors of Craig y Ddinas which includes the awakening of a knight who is then enjoined to ‘sleep on’.
Past, present and future
Owen links the long past, with its epic wars l.3, with the very recent past ‘yesterday’ l.42. In the present tense of the poem ‘that other’ soldier speaks of ‘the undone years’ l.15.and the fearful future which will unfold as a result of the destruction of war:
The changes made by the war will seem the norm and be accepted, or
alternatively cause discontent which will cause more lives to ‘be spilled’. Owen envisages that there will be further conflict and destruction in the course of which ‘nations trek’ away ‘from progress’ l.29.
The main voice of the poem is that of the dead German soldier, to whom Owen attributes his own attitudes as the man outlines the way in which the world might have been saved.
Investigating commentary on Strange Meeting
- Sassoon thought that this poem would seal Owen’s reputation as a poet. What do you see to be the greatness of this poem?
- Why do you think this is it sometimes described as Owen’s best poem?
- What are the difficulties of Strange Meeting?
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