“BE THOU MY VISION” has its roots from an 8th century Irish prayer (some sources say it was a poem):
Rop tú mo baile, a Choimdiu cride: ní ní nech aile acht Rí secht nime.
The prayer was attributed to an Irish poet, Dallan Forchella, who was believed to have spent so much time reading and writing that he became blind.
Twelve centuries later, in 1905, the prayer was translated literally into English by Mary E. Byrne.
Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart
None other is aught but the King of the seven heavens.
Be thou my meditation by day and night.
May it be thou that I behold even in my sleep.
In 1912, Eleanor Hull versified the prayer.
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.
Great God of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all
The Irish folk tune SLANE and the text of the prayer were combined in 1927 by David Evans, a Welsh composer. Slane is a village in Ireland, and the tune was named after the Hill of Slane. The hill is north of the village and became a centre of learning and religion after St Patrick established his missionary work there.
As we sing this hymn, we bring ourselves before God, praying that He would keep our eyes and minds focused on Him. We pray too for His continuing presence in our waking and in our sleeping, trusting that He is our light.
The second stanza leads us to seek the Lord’s wisdom so that His Word may dwell in our hearts and we would not set our eyes on the cares of this world. As we continue our journey, we pray that God expands our vision so that we may have the courage to face “whatever befalls” us rather than keeping our eyes fixed on our comfort zones.
Judith Mosomos is a Lecturer in Church Music at the Methodist School of Music.