Monday, July 9, 2012

Be Thou My Vision

Here goes the first hymn!
Hymn Title: Be Thou My Vision

Tune: Slane

Numerical Outline: 10 10 10 10

     Yet again, the history of a Christian tradition has been influence by the Pagans. The tune "Slane," is originally an Irish folk tune that was created to honor St. Patrick. Back in 433 AD, on the eve of Bealtine, a Druidic Holiday that lines up directly with Easter as well as the spring equinox, it was declared by the King, Leoghaire (Leary) Mac Neill, that no fires were to be lit until the fire atop of Tara Hill was lit. Going against the kings wishes, St. Patrick went out to Slane Hill and lit a candle to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The king was so impressed by the courage that St. Patrick had shown, Leoghaire let him continue his missionary work throughout Ireland. 
     It wasn't until more than 100 years had passed that anyone took an interest in writing words to commemorate what had happened that day. Considered to be one of the top poets in Ireland at the time, Dallan Forgaill (CA 530-598 AD), who was said to have spent so much time studying that he went blind, took it upon himself to write a poem about the events. The poem was entitled "Rop tu mo Baile," and was written in old Irish. It wasn't until the year 1905 that Mary E. Byrne translated the text into English Prose. After the translation, another writer by the name of Eleanor H. Hull took the translation and put it into verse in her 1913 publication of Poem Book of Gael.
     The Tune "Slane," was not published until 1909 in a book entitled, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, written by Patrick W. Joyce. The tune was not published under the name "Slane," originally, but was rather named "By the Banks of the Bann." It wasn't until 1919 that Eleanor H. Hull's translation of the text was paired with the tune by Leopold Dix. The tune was first published in the Irish Church Hymnal. although many different versions of the hymn exist, the most widely accepted text is as follows: 
(1) 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.

(2) 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.

(3) Be Thou my battle shield, sword for my 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.

(4) 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.

(5) High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

 What the Hymn means to me:

This hymn is very important to me because it is one of the first that I have ever played on the piano (excluding Christmas song). I take this hymn to mean that we are asking God to be our guide no matter what. The text praises God as well as asks God for something. We can always find a healthy balance of this if we take the time when we are praying to say "thank you," before we ask God for something. Some nights it is easy to forget that what we have with God is a gift, but this hymn serves as a reminder that we need to thank God for the things that we have and for being our guide through the trials and tribulations that make up what we call "Life."

The Hymn:

McCabe, Sarah. ""Be Thou My Vision": 
     The History of a Christian Hymn." N.p., 16 June 2010. Web. 09 July 2012.         <>.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The correct title from the 1909 Patrick Joyce collection used for the tune was "With my love on the road." This particular tune appears to have been distilled from other forms, which include, as you note, "By the banks of the Bann." Another earlier version I have seen is "The Hielan's o' Scotland."

    Scholars generally contest the attribution of the text to the 6th C. bard and poet Dallan Forgaill, and consider it instead to be an 8th C. prayer of unknown authorship.

    My hymnals all show the meter as 10 11 11 12