War poetry refers to a poem written by either an active combatant or a civilian during an era of war. The majority of war poems were written during World War 1 and were a way to escape the very real danger of trench warfare. Poets such as: Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke and many more depict. through experience, a true scene of what it was like in war and how they were affected.
Wilfred Owen was born in Oswestry, Engand in 1893. At the age of 19 Owen became infatuated with poetry. With much of his earlier poems being mainly influenced by the works of John Keats and Percey Byshhe Shelley. He had a very strong Christian background and from the years 1911-1913 he helped to teach Bible classes and led prayer meetings. He also later worked as a language tutor in France. He returned, feeling the pressure from those around him and much of the propaganda that he decide to enlist.
Owen is regarded as one of the best writers in the war poetry genre and we can see that many of his pieces are based, in someway or another, on his experiences. For example, his most famous poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is written based around his experience on January 12th 1917, where he and many others were wading through deep sludge and were attacked with poison gas. Sent to hospital where he met Siegfried Sassoon Owen was killed on the 4th of November 1918, merely a week before the Armistice was signed. 82 of the poems he wrote have been published in several anthologies. Only 5 of his works were published while he was alive.
Deemed to be ‘Owen’s passport to immortality’ by Siegfried Sassoon, ‘Strange Meeting’ was one of his best pieces. Owen wrote Strange Meeting in 1918 and was published a year after his death in 1919. The poem tells the story of two dead soldiers that meet in an unknown place. Strange Meeting is about two soldiers meeting in a strange and unknown place. These two soldiers engage in a conversation and share their experiences and find each other’s similarities.
Many critics also believe that the sleeper is the speakers alter-ego, this idea can be further backed through the extreme similarity linking the two. Especially their love for poetry and its inevitable role in life of the future. The poem was written to talk about the misconceptions of war and unveil the truth untold. In line 1 the speaker is glad that he has made it out of conflict, not knowing that he is dead and he believes he is in a secluded trench.
Further on in Lines 11-13, we can see that the speaker is ‘enjoying’ this place. Although it is different, it is a safe haven from the thousand pains of war, there is no blood in this place, and there is not the sound of thumping guns. However, the sleeping man expresses how his loss of life has impacted him. In line 37 the sleeper says “I would have poured my spirit without stint”.
Here he is talking about how much he misses the world he once lived in and if he were to live again he would write and educate people about the real horrors of war that were so hidden from the general population. The poem’s structure is set out in such a way that it enhances the common theme of ambiguity. Owen makes use of 4 irregular stanzas to dictate his message. Each line is written in Iambic Pentameter which is defined as “a line of verse with 5 metrical feet, each consisting of one unstressed or short syllable followed by a stressed or long syllable. For example, line 7 “with PITeous recogNITion in FIX EYES”. He then couples this technique with slant or pararhyme.
This type of rhyme is not perfect. Owen takes advantage of the way it can disorientate us to enhance the almost dizzying experience the poem gives. The rhyme comes pairs of two lines, each with similar length, forming what is known as a heroic couplet. His use of heroic couplets can be seen as a way of mocking the misconception of a glorified war and that it is heroic in nature to be a part of it. This use may also stem from the pressure that Owen himself felt about enlisting.