Hymn #1: Be Thou My Vision

Lyrics: Attributed to Saint Dallon Fargaill (6th century)
Translated to English by Mary E. Byrne (1905)
Versified by Eleanor Hull (1912)

Music: Irish folk melody, SLANE.

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1.

For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:10

And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain. Ezekiel 8:4.

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Joel 2:28.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Ephesians 1:17.

David Nevue, piano arrangement:

Listen to this hymn in Gaelic:

Eleanor M. Hull, in her 1912 Poem Book of the Gael wrote this poetic translation of the old Irish hymn dating back to the eighth, perhaps the sixth, century:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

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

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Patrick Joyce published the traditional Irish tune Slane, named for a hill near Tara where St. Patrick challenged the druid priests in lighting the paschal fire. Hull’s words and the traditional tune were paired in the Irish Church Hymnal in 1919, and lo, we have Be Thou My Vision, a reminder of the vision of Celtic Christianity and the baptized imagination of medieval Celtic Christians who saw God as the mighty High King of Heaven, ruling over all things and at the same time immanent and intimately present in our lives.

Popular Hymns.com: Desktop Backgrounds for Be Thou My Vision.

Christianity Today Library: Be Thou My Vision.

Writen by Sherry

I'm a Christian, the homeschooling mom of eight (yes, all mine) children, married to a NASA engineer, and a confirmed bookaholic. I like old books, conservative politics, and new and interesting ideas. My hair is grey, my favorite clothes are red, and I love purple. Come on in and enjoy the blog. Be sure to tell me what you think before you leave.

9 thoughts on “Hymn #1: Be Thou My Vision

  1. Ah, a great one indeed. I’ve forgotten now if it was in my top ten in your poll, but if it wasn’t it should have been. I’m glad you included the battleshield verse; most hymnals omit it, alas. I think the Summit Choirbook has a sixth stanza, let me go dig it out; it’s not as important as the battleshield one, though… yes, here it is; they give it as the fifth verse of six:

    King of high heaven, keep Thou ever whole Thy
    love in my heart and Thy light in my soul.
    Light of my soul, from me never depart,
    King of high heaven, O Love of my heart.

    Thanks for a wonderful summer (and early fall), Sherry!

    Leland aka Haruo

  2. Wow. What a ride! Thank you, Sherry, thank you! for all the work you put into this project this year. It has been a blessing to me. Sometimes when I’m making dinner I click on your blog and start listening to several different hymns.

    I still want to work on my own top 100 list. It was almost impossible to limit the list to my favorite 10.

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