I'm having a somewhat hard time understanding all of this poem. I've got some thoughts on it, but I'm interested in what everyone else has been getting out of it. If you could post your thought/interpretations on it I would appreciate it.
Let's take a look at the poem:
by Wilfred Owen
1 It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
2 Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
3 Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
4 Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
5 Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
6 Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
7 With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
8 Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
9 And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall;
10 With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
11 Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
12 And no guns thumped, or down the fluies made moan.
13 "Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
14 "None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
15 The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
16 Was my life also; I went hunting wild
17 After the wildest beauty in the world,
18 Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
19 But mocks the steady running of the hour,
20 And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
21 For by my glee might many men have laughed,
22 And of my weeping something has been left,
23 Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
24 The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
25 Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
26 Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
27 They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
28 None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
29 Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
30 Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
31 To miss the march of this retreating world
32 Into vain citadels that are not walled.
33 Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
34 I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
35 Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
36 I would have poured my spirit without stint
37 But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
38 Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
39 I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
40 I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
41 Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
42 I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
43 Let us sleep now ...
Here are some key components of Owen's poetry:
1. War is hell. (How is this illustrated here.)
2. War means sufffering? (Again, how is this manifested in this poem?)
3. There are no winners in war. ( Why not?)
4. All soldiers are equal. ( How is this illustrated here?)
5. War is a crime against humanity.
If you can answer these questions and put yourself in the place of the soldier in the tunnel, then you are well on your way to understanding and interpreting Wilfred Owen's poetry.
It probably helps to now that the 'strange meeting' is between enemies- the narrator meets the man he killed yesterday.
There's a Derek Jarman movie called WAR REQUIEM that dramatizes the poem.