Strange Meeting Questions and Answers
- What do you mean by a war poet?
The term war poet has been applied to a group of poets who lived around the time of the first world war and took it up as a subject. While some like Rupert Brooke were to glorify war sacrifice of one’s life for one’s motherland, the other class, consisting of such poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen left an indelible mark in the annals of literature. Grossly stark in their presentation of reality Owen and Sassoon presented war not as glory but a pitiful human spectacle where young men are butchered mercilessly.
- What is Owen’s opinion about war?
According to Wilfred Owen, war is not a glorious spectacle and he rubbishes the old lie’ spread by war mongers: “Dulce et decorum est/ pro patria mori”. He feels that it is never sweet to die, even for one’s motherland at war and war is nothing but a horrible butcher house of budding young men.
- When and where was the poem published?
The poem ‘Strange Meeting‘ was published by Owen in the year 1921 in the poetry collection titled ‘Poems By Wilfred Owen with an Introduction by Siegfried Sassoon’.
- When was the poem composed?
The poem along with a couple of his other poems was composed by Owen in a war hospital while recovering from an injury, at the insistence of Sassoon in the year 1918.
- What is the ‘profound dull tunnel’ mentioned by the poet?
The poem begins with the poet expressing his present state where he feels that he is a deep underground tunnel, using which he has escaped from the battlefield. It is a dark, deep, gloomy chamber where he meets men who are either asleep or dead and can be considered to be Hell.
- What are the ‘titanic wars’ referred to by Owen?
Composed at a time when the first World War was in progress, by using the phrase ‘titanic wars, Owen most probably refers that mother of all wars that cauterized the psyche of entire humanity. And symbolically, Owen is most probably comparing the first World War with the mythological war fought by the Titans against the gods on Mt. Olympus.
- How did the poet realize that he was in Hell?
As the poet was passing through the underground chamber, all of a sudden a man sprang up and stared at him with ‘piteous recognition’. He raised his hands to indicate something, though to the poet it seemed as if to bless, and then from his smile, the poet realized that the ‘sullen hall’ he was standing in was nothing other than Hell.
- Why does the poet say that ‘here is no cause to mourn?
The poet by this time has realized that he is in Hell and the man is dead. Thus, ironically, to comfort the man on his death, the poet says that the man should not mourn or express sorrow at his death. He says this probably from a sense of guilt as he had killed the man or as an echo of the war mongers who proclaim that it is sweet and beautiful to die for one’s country
- Bring out the deep irony and sorrow expressed in the words “None …save the undone years”.
The speaker here is the dead soldier in Owen’s poem whom he met in the underworld replying to the poet’s caustic comment that there was nothing to mourn in the underworld. The man replies in the affirmative, but then the sorrow comes along with deep irony and biting sarcasm – he has no cause for sorrow except for all the years of his life that have been ruined. He has immense distress for all the years he would have lived but could not and feels totally hopeless in not being able to do anything about it.
- What is the wildest beauty in the world which was sought after by the dead soldier?
The dead soldier in Owen while speaking out his hopelessness proclaims that in his life he hunted for the wildest beauty – not the beauty of a woman but the magnificence and splendour of unbridled adventure and the joy and vivacity of companionship, either physical or spiritual. The word ‘wild bring to the mind a concept of beauty which is romantic in nature and would be at the same time ecstatic and euphoric, exuberant and energetic.
- Explain: “I mean the truth untold / The pity of war, the pity war distilled”
In these words uttered by the dead soldier to the poet, the main theme and Owen’s central concern is evident. It has been Owen’s creed to proclaim to the world of the ‘old lie’: “dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori”. It is never sweet to die and he wants to reveal the truth which is never told by the war mongers – the pitiable situation that war unfolds – the death and permanent disability of fit and strong young men. Thus in these lines Owen presents his attitude to war-war is always a piteous and horrific spectacle, it can never be glorious and magnificent.
- What is meant by “nations trek from progress”?
In ‘Strange Meeting’, Owen has distilled the reality of war and in his assessment, though war mongers declare war to make one’s country more powerful, in reality it is the opposite. War can never lead towards progress of any nation and in Owen’s words it is a trek away from progress, it is going backwards into barbarism and brutality.
- What does Owen mean by ‘mystery’ and ‘mastery’?
In his anti-war poem ‘Strange Meeting’, by ‘mystery’ Owen implies the mystery of war, the unknown knowledge about war, that it is never a glorious affair. And by using the word ‘mastery’ Owen implies a commanding and commendable reporting about the truth or reality of war.
- Justify the title of poem / What is strange about the meeting between the soldier and the poet?
The title of Owen’s poem seems very much appropriate and justified for he presents his meeting with a strange man, who is his enemy in the battlefield and a man of unknown nationality. Also, the man is dead while the poetic persona is still living when they meet, casting a spell of strangeness on the entire affair.
- What is meant by “the march of this retreating world / Into vain citadels that are not walled”?
According to the poet, the warring nations of the world are involving themselves into false beliefs about race and nationalism forgetting the all powerful ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. Thus he feels that the nations are slowly retreating from powerful ideals and moving into vague and diversionist ideas which are as insecure as citadels or forts which have no boundary or walls.
- What is meant by ‘chariot wheels and how do they become “clogged’?
The chariot wheels refer to the wheels of progress of various nations of the world which marched forward previously on ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. But now the scenario has changed completely and the leaders of the same nations are baying for the blood of others and trying to establish their military supremacy. The result is that young men are killed in the battlefield and their blood is clogging the chariot wheels of the nations, stopping any sort of progress.