POEMS OF RETTA MILDRED BROWN
Retta Mildred Brown wrote many poems. "Acres of Gold" was
published in a corn company's calendar. The poem that has received the
widest readership and popularity is "Tom Gray's Dream." Retta's
uncle, Tom Gray, related this nightmare experienced during a drunken
In the 1990s, the poem was shared with an alcoholism
recovery group, which circulated the poem far and wide. Churches are
also circulating the poem at this time, but seldom giving credit to
the author. We provide it here in the hopes that it will be enjoyed
and circulated at will, but the family asks that the author be given
credit for her work! If you copy this poem, please add the by-line at
the end, "by Retta M. Brown."
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,
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 lightning 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, 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.
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 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 that 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 made in vain,
For he never more rode on the Hell-bound train.
By Retta M. Brown