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Short poem

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Strange Meeting

              1It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
              2Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
              3Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
              4Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
              5Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
              6Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
              7With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
              8Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
              9And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall;
            10By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
            11With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
            12Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
            13And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
            14"Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
            15"None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
            16The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
            17Was my life also; I went hunting wild
            18After the wildest beauty in the world,
            19Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
            20But mocks the steady running of the hour,
            21And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
            22For by my glee might many men have laughed,
            23And of my weeping something has been left,
            24Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
            25The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
            26Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
            27Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
            28They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
            29None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
            30Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
            31Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
            32To miss the march of this retreating world
            33Into vain citadels that are not walled.
            34Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
            35I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
            36Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
            37I would have poured my spirit without stint
            38But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
            39Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
            40I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
            41I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
            42Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
            43I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
            44Let us sleep now ...

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Wilfred Owen, Poems By Wilfred Owen with an Introduction by Siegfried Sassoon (London: Chatto and Windus, 1921): 1-2. PR 6029 W4P6 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1918
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2001/12/6

Composition date: 1918
Form: couplets

Other poems by Wilfred Owen