TOM GRAY'S DREAM
(aka The Hell-Bound Train)
Retta M. Brown (born September 18, 1893)
Tom Gray lay down on the bar room floor,
Having drunk so much he could drink no more;
So he fell asleep with a troubled brain,
To dream that he rode on a hell-bound train.
The engine with blood was red and damp,
And brilliantly lit by a brimstone lamp;
An imp, for fuel, was shoveling bones,
While the furnace rang with a thousand groans.
The boiler was filled with lager beer;
And the devil himself was the engineer.
The passengers made such a motley crew;
Church members, atheist, gentile and jew,
Rich men in broadcloth and beggars in rags,
Hansome young ladies and withered old hags,
Yellow and black men, red, brown and white.
And all chained together...a horrible sight.
While the train dashed on at an awful pace,
And a hot wind scorched them on hands and face
Wilder and wilder the country grew,
As faster and faster the engine flew;
Louder and louder the thunder crashed,
And brighter and brighter the lighting flashed.
Hotter and hotter the air became,
Till the clothes were burnt from each quivering frame.
Then in the distance there rose such a yell,
Ha! Ha! croaked the devil, weíre nearing hell.
Then oh, how the passengers shrieked with pain,
And begged of the devil to stop the train!
But he capered about and sang with glee,
And laughed and joked at their agony,
My faithful friends, you have done my work,
And the devil can never a pay day shirk.
You have bullied the weak, you have robbed the poor,
And a starving brother turned from your door;
You have laid up gold where the canker rust,
And given free vent to your fleshly lust;
You have justice scorned and corruption sown,
And trampled the laws of nature down;
You have drank and rioted, murdered and lied,
And mocked at God in your hell-born pride,
You have paid full fare, so Iíll carry you thru,
For its only right you should get your due;
Why, the laborer always expects his hire,
So Iíll land you safe in the Lake of Fire,
Where your flesh shall roast in the flames that roar,
And my imps torment you more and more.
Then Tom awoke with an agonized cry.
His clothes soaked with sweat, his hair standing high,
And he prayed as he never had prayed before,
To be saved from drink and the devilís power;
And his prayers and his cries were not made in vain,
For he never more rode on the hell-bound train.
|Tom Grey was born in Indiana in 1852. He was an alcoholic who had a dream that sobered him completely. His niece, Retta May Brown, wrote a poem about his dream and it has been widely listed as 'author unknown'. This use of anonymity could be a precursor to Alcoholics Anonymous where only first names are used. In the 1800s and the early 1900s alcoholism was considered a character weakness and not a disease. That was probably why the poem was known as 'The Hell-Bound Train'. - from RHYMES FOR THE WORKING MAN by Keith Walker