Wilfred Owen: Poems

Wilfred Owen: Poems Summary and Analysis for "The Kind Ghosts"


The woman sleeps softly, but ghosts do not disturb her by coming out from the quiet palace walls –a wall made of "boys on boys" and "dooms on dooms". Her dreams are of gardens and "sweet glooms", and she does not think about why her roses do not die or what red mouths were used to construct their blooms.

The shades keep away the things that might roam her palace hall. Their blood remains in her red rooms and she is not afraid of their steps. They do not come out of her tapestries or their coffins covers; they do not walk about her terrace with reminders of their sacrifices. They do not disturb her and she does not grieve.


"The Kind Ghosts", like "Greater Love", is one of Owen's more difficult poems, as it uses complicated poetic imagery to express its meaning. It has a rather uncommon structure, with four stanzas of three lines, a rhyme scheme of aba, and a line of long vowels.

The poem is more or a less a bitter commentary on women and how they are sheltered from the reality of war and do not know, or, as is insinuated, do not care about the sacrifices being made on the front. The poem begins by depicting a woman in a state of calm and repose; she is sleeping with "soft, last breaths". She is undisturbed by the ghosts, which do not permeate her palace wall. Her abode is still and the wall keeps out the "boys on boys and dooms on dooms". She is unaware of what is going on beyond her secluded bower.

In the second stanza this invective is continued in Owen's subtle but resentful manner. The woman has light and charming dreams as she sleeps. She does not think about "why her roses never fall" or what red mouths of soldiers were used to keep them so red. These lines refer to the young men that are dying in the trenches and on the battlefield so she can continue in her placid existence.

In the third stanza he uses the image of a shade being drawn as a metaphor for the ignorance that keeps real knowledge away from the women at home. The word "shades" has a double meaning in referring to ghosts or spirits; these shades do not disturb her either. She is not afraid of their presence, as they are barely even there. In the fourth stanza this continues, with Owen writing that the ghosts do not come out from behind the tapestries or walk around her terraces because they do not want to disturb her or make her sad.

This ignorance and sheltered lifestyle of those on the home front was particularly galling to Owen. The profound disconnect between soldiers and civilians is one of the most frequent themes in the narrative of WWI. The term "shell shock" was coined during this time to label the state of mental anguish and disarray experienced by soldiers returning to the home front. These young men found it difficult to attain a "normal" life after the war, and the ignorance of those at home only served to exacerbate the problem.