People in ancient and modern times alike have appreciated poetry due to its ability to capture the human condition. Poetry pushes the human soul to the extreme, accusing the man of his past flaws and deliberate wrong choices, all while appreciating the good in society and nature. The poem Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen is about the phenomenon of war and its aftermath.
Wilfred Owen, the Author of Strange Meeting
Wilfred Owen was an English poet and soldier born in 1893 in Oswestry, Shropshire. He was enlisted in the army in 1915 and died in action in 1918 in Sambre-Oise Canal, France, at which point he was known for his significant contribution to war poetry. In his works, Wilfred Owen sees the futility, tragedy and destruction that war inevitably brings.
Stylistic Devices in Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen
The poet makes an allusion to the bible (King James Version). There are phrases and wording which echo King James Version. In line 8, the lifting of hands is a biblical allusion where religion would raise their hands in order to bless individuals and congregants. The act of going to hell is an allusion to the apostle’s creed. It is possible that Owen, in his formative years, would recite the creed.
The Use of Metaphors
The poet describes beauty as mocking the running of an hour. In this line, line 20, beauty is personified to describe a situation where time is running out. The poet suggests that the number of years the solder spent in trenches has made him weary.
In line 34, the blood clogged in the wheel is partially figurative. The chariot wheel concept is borrowed from ancient wars. However, in the First World War (the setting of Owen’s poems) it refers to any infrastructure and machinery that drives the war. As a matter of fact, the modern war is far more destructive than the ancient war as it has adopted the use of technology. Line 35 states the desire that solders, after staining themselves with blood, wish to get healed.
The Poem’s Tone
The tone of the poem is dreamlike as well as eerie. The use of the word hell arouses the imagination of the reader, and is an epic poetical narrative, bringing the memories of Dante’s inferno. The poet creates a sense of the supernatural when he used words such as dead smile. In connection to this, the reader cannot help but notice a sense of despair and hopelessness among the soldiers.
Thematic Analysis of Strange Meeting
Like other poems by Owen, the theme of war is dominant in the poem. The poem is about the soldiers, their trade, and their suffering therein. It is about the impact that war has on the solders and other affected parties. Poor persona- he escapes death at battle, but descends to hell.
Fear is a dominant theme in war poetry. War creates fear in both the fighters and the affected people. Just like the way the solder kills the enemy, he could as well be killed. This environment creates a cycle of violence saturated with fear. It is possible that even if the solder gives up fighting, fear is already stuck in his soul making it very difficult for him to live a normal life. In fact, the poet says that even when the soldiers are courageous, they still live in misery.
Guilt is a dominant theme in the poem Strange Meeting. Studies in the field of psychology have cited the emotional impact of war, justification of war notwithstanding. A number of soldiers who served in Vietnam became victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. The poem suggests that solders waste their productive time in war. In addition to that, the poet suggests that soldiers should not blame “orders from above” because they can make choices to do the right thing.
There is no question that Wilfred Owen had a deep disdain for war. The poem is a wakeup call to the modern man who continues to propagate war instead of peace; the poem shakes the emotions of the reader to the core, and makes him re-think his perceptions of war. Overall, the poem Strange Meeting is a perfect example of a superb World War I poetry.