Strange Meeting (poem)
"Strange Meeting" is a poem by Wilfred Owen. It deals with the atrocities of World War I. The poem was written sometime in 1918 and was published in 1919 after Owen's death. The poem is narrated by a soldier who goes to the underworld to escape the hell of the battlefield and there he meets the enemy soldier he killed the day before.
This poem has been described as one of Owen's "most haunting and complex war poems".
Pararhyme or double consonance is a particular feature of the poetry of Wilfred Owen and also occurs throughout Strange Meeting – the whole poem is written in pararhyming couplets. For example: "And by his smile I knew that sullen hall, / By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell." The pararhyme here links key words and ideas, without detracting from the meaning and solemnity of the poem, as a full rhyme sometimes does. However, the failure of two similar words to rhyme and the obvious omission of a full rhyme creates a sense of discomfort and incompleteness. It is a discordant note that matches well to the disturbing mood of the poem.
The line, I am the enemy you killed, my friend, appears on the memorial sculpture to Owen erected by Wilfred Owen Association, (sculptors husband-and-wife Paul and Ruth de Monchaux) in the grounds of Shrewsbury Abbey (in whose parish his family settled) to mark his birth centenary in 1993.
Text of the poem
It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall;
By his dead smile, I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
"Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
"None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something has been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
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.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now . . ."
- Wilfred Owen, Harold Bloom, Isaac Rosenberg (2002). Poets of World War One. Infobase Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-7910-5932-6.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Francis, Peter (2013). Shropshire War Memorials, Sites of Remembrance. YouCaxton Publications. p. 194. ISBN 978-1-909644-11-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>