Be Thou My Vision

So it is Monday, and I love Mondays – I also realize some people do not. So when I have a day that is busy and a bit frustrating I go to a hymn that I have written down in my journal. I think it says it all and really focuses me on the One who holds my world together.

Sometimes hymn singing or reading invites us to connect with God and those great men and women of God who have gone before. Such is the case with the famous Irish hymn, “Be Thou my vision.” The original poem, found in two Irish manuscripts in the library of the Royal Irish Academy, may be dated as early as the 8th century.

The Irish text, beginning “Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride,” was translated into literal prose by Irish scholar Mary Byrne (1880-1931), a Dublin native, and then published in Eriú, the journal of the School of Irish Learning, in 1905. Byrne was also known for her academic publications, including Old and Mid-Irish Dictionary, Dictionary of the Irish Language, and a treatise, England in the Age of Chaucer.

The original prose translation comes to us in 16 couplets.

The first is: Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart. None other is aught but the King of the seven heavens.

And the last is: O heart of my heat, whate’er befall me, O ruler of all, be thou my vision.

It is at this point that Eleanor Hull (1860-1935) enters the story. Born in Manchester, England, she was the founder of the Irish Text Society and president of the Irish Literary Society of London. Hull versified the text and it was published in her Poem Book of the Gael (1912).
Following the original publication in Ireland, the hymn was included in a number of British hymnals. After World War II, the hymn came to the attention of hymnal editors in the U.S. and it has become a standard hymn in most hymnals today.

So now that you have the history – hear are the words.

1 Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art;
be Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.

2 Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
be Thou ever with me, and I with Thee, Lord;
be Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son;
be Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

3 Be Thou my Breastplate, my Sword for the fight;
be Thou my whole Armor, be Thou my true Might;
be Thou my soul’s Shelter, be Thou my strong Tow’r,
O raise Thou me heav’nward, great Pow’r of my pow’r.

4 Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
be Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart,
O high King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

5 High King of heaven, Thou heaven’s bright Sun,
O grant me its joys, after vict’ry is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be Thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Enjoy – Mark

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