878: This Is My Vow

878: This Is My Vow

878: This Is My Vow


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

A few years ago, for about a week on the road in hotels, I dressed while watching the morning news. As I pulled up my socks, anchors reported on everything from gas station holdups and drug overdoses to arson and oil spills, a veritable cocktail of sadness. It darkened even the brightest of those mornings. In just a few minutes, I’d gotten my day’s fill of humanity’s seemingly flawed nature...I powered down the television and tossed the remote.

These days, many folks consider it wise to monitor our intake of negative headlines, if for nothing else to protect ourselves from stress and misanthropy. All the news about mass shootings, racial injustice, and climate change, which define much of my social media scrolling, makes me want to run into the cuddly arms of cat videos and dance crazes.

It all feels so very now. But people have been grappling with this dichotomy throughout history — with his character Dr. Pangloss, the French satirical playwright Voltaire warned of the dangers of ignoring the unpleasantness of society, of maintaining an ever-optimistic view of the world.

Today, the rancor of politics and war once again drown out the daily hope of a brighter tomorrow. Recent local and national events, tragic and painful, can eclipse any recognition of our blessings, our miracles. What we experience as grave injustices done to us or members of a community or the earth can leave us with the belief that no solutions exist which may leave us bitter and resentful toward each other. Yet, we can live in that space of thinking that something better is just around the bend. More unity and less hostility. More love and less hate. More happiness and less misery.

Today’s poem, though written nearly one hundred years ago, knows that to live today is to heroically make a pledge of hope, to seek the positives, to practice the gospel of joy, and in doing so to defeat pessimism and stave off an all-consuming gloom.

This Is My Vow
by Lucia Mae Pitts

This I have made my sacred vow:
The god of bitterness shall never be my god.
Whatever is, or was, or is to be,
When I go down to death, to greet the sod,
I’ll go with a taste in my mouth
Of the wine of very heaven.
The bitter cup the jaded Life need never give,
For I shall never drink it—never while I live.

The sweeter draught I take for mine.
The cup of life, when first we sip, has little taste
But may, upon our whims as years go by,
Be filled with sweetest wine or bitter waste.
I have known pain and misery
But that I swear I will forget,
Remembering only hours that made the happy years:
I will not spoil my piquant wine with bitter tears.

I shall pluck moments from the days
As I would pluck the loveliest flowers from their bed.
These I will keep for my remembering—
Forgetting fingers that the thorns have bled.
Love and beauty, these will I hold,
And dancing hours, with music in my ears.
This is my vow: When I go down at last to death,
Who leans near me will catch the sweetness of my breath.