Tom Gray's Dream

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"Tom Gray's Dream" is a poem written by western Illinois poet Retta M. Brown (born September 18, 1893).

Tom Gray was a farmer's son, born in Indiana on November 27, 1852, whose family moved to Mercer County, Illinois. During a drunken stupor, he experienced a frightening dream that moved him to cease alcohol abuse. His niece, Retta M. Brown, wrote the poem and immortalized the nightmare. Alcohol recovery groups and certain churches have widely circulated the poem, usually without attribution.


"Tom Gray's Dream":

Tom Gray lay down on the barroom 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 member, atheist, Gentile, and Jew.
Rich men in broadcloth and beggars in rags,
Handsome young ladies and withered old hags,
Yellow and black men, red, brown, and white,
All chained together-a horrible sight!

Then in the distance there rose such a yell,
"Ha! Ha!" croaked the Devil, "we're 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.

"Faithful friends, you have done my work,
And the Devil can never a payday 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 rusts,
And given free vent to your fleshly lusts;

You have justice scorned and corruption sown,
And trampled the laws of nature down;
You have drunk and rioted, murdered and lied,
And mocked at God in your hell-born pride.
You have paid full fare, so I'll carry you through,
For it's only right you should get your due.

Why, the laborer always expects his hire;
So I'll 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 Devil's power;
And his prayers and his cries were not in vain,
For he never more rode on the hell-bound train.

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