Soldier's Dream - Synopsis and commentary

Synopsis of Soldier’s Dream

A soldier relates a dream he had in which Jesus Christ had destroyed all weapons of war on both sides, even going back into history. However, God was angry at this action so sent the Archangel Michael, the leader of God’s army, to repair everything, which the soldier discovers when he awakens.

Image of the Archangel Michael trampling Satan

Investigating Soldier's Dream

  • The title of the poem is Soldier’s Dream. Discuss who you think that soldier is who has such a dream.
    • Is this dream Owen’s dream, the dream of one man or the dream of all who serve in wars?

Commentary on Soldier’s Dream


Owen wrote this poem at Craiglockhart in October 1917 where he was recuperating from shell shock and had met the anti-war poet Siegfried Sassoon. Owen wrote to him:

I trust you’ll like it well enough to pass it on to The Nation.

(The Nation was a periodical that was prepared to print anti-war material, in which Owen’s first published poem appeared.) The poem was revised in July-August 1918. It was not published until after his death.

Owen’s take on God, Jesus and Michael

  • According to Christian doctrine, God exists in three persons who share the same heart and mind – God, the Father, God the Son (who took on bodily form on earth as Jesus Christ), and God, the Holy Spirit. Together they are referred to as the Trinity
    • Owen skews this teaching by imagining the Father and the Son in opposition to one another, rather than being indivisible. He portrays Jesus as gentle and peace-loving, compared to God as a warmonger.
  • According to the New Testament, the ongoing fight against the powers of evil will result in a final battle, with legions of angels fighting on the side of good, whose battle commander is the Archangel Michael (see Revelation 12:7)
    • Thus Owen imagines God turning to Michael to repair the armaments Jesus had sabotaged. However, the idea of giving Michael ‘all power’ contradicts the biblical position that Jesus (also known as the Son of Man) is given ultimate authority by God (see Daniel 7:13-14, John 13:3).
  • At the end of the final battle, when good has finally overcome evil, the Bible recounts that a heavenly voice declares of God the Father:
    And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. KJB Revelation 21:4
  • Owen echoes this phraseology, but ascribes it to the actions of Jesus, rather than attributing it to God the Father.

Weapons of War

  • The big-gun gears l.1: the mechanism by which the huge cannon which fired artillery shells on both sides was moved
  • Bolts l.2: the mechanism on a rifle which every soldier owned
  • Mausers and Colts l.3 are makes of German and American rifles
  • Bayonets l.4 were blades attached to rifles and used by both sides in hand to hand fighting
  • Bombs l.5: the shells fired from the big guns
  • Flint locks l.6: the mechanism used for firing old-fashioned pistols
  • Pikel l.6: a pitchfork used originally as a farming implement. It could be used as a weapon because of its two sharp points.

Investigating commentary on Soldier's Dream

  • Owen based the poem on a fundamental split between God the Father and God the Son. In what way does this poem remind you of The Parable of the Old Man and the Young?
    • Look at how the two poems are different
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