Be Thou My Vision

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"Be Thou My Vision"
Song
Published 1905
Genre Hymn
Language Old Irish
Modern Irish
Scottish Gaelic
English
Writer Saint Dallan Forgaill, 6th Century

Be Thou My Vision (Irish: Bí Thusa 'mo Shúile) is a traditional hymn from Ireland, which is commonly attributed to Dallán Forgaill.[1] It is popular among English-speaking churches around the world.

History[edit]

The original Old Irish text, Rop tú mo Baile is often attributed to Dallán Forgaill in the 6th century.[1] The text had been a part of Irish monastic tradition for centuries before its setting to the tune, therefore, before it became an actual hymn.[2] It was translated from Old Irish into English by Mary Elizabeth Byrne, M.A., in Ériu (the journal of the School of Irish Learning), in 1905. The English text was first versified by Eleanor Hull, in 1912, and is now the most common text used.[3] In the 20th century, two new sets of relatively common lyrics were put to the same tune used for the hymn. The first was "Lord of All Hopefulness" written by Jan Struther around 1931.[4] The second was a popular wedding hymn, "God, In the Planning and Purpose of Life," written by John Bell and Graham Maule and first appearing in publication in 1989. [5]

Lyrics[edit]

Original Text[edit]

Selected verses of Be thou my vision sung in Old Irish to the tune Slane.

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The original texts of the now-called Be Thou My Vision are in Old Irish, similar still in style to modern Irish.

Rop tú mo baile, a Choimdiu cride:
ní ní nech aile acht Rí secht nime.
Rop tú mo scrútain i l-ló 's i n-aidche;
rop tú ad-chëar im chotlud caidche.
Rop tú mo labra, rop tú mo thuicsiu;
rop tussu dam-sa, rob misse duit-siu.
Rop tussu m'athair, rob mé do mac-su;
rop tussu lem-sa, rob misse lat-su.
Rop tú mo chathscíath, rop tú mo chlaideb;
rop tussu m'ordan, rop tussu m'airer.
Rop tú mo dítiu, rop tú mo daingen;
rop tú nom-thocba i n-áentaid n-aingel.
Rop tú cech maithius dom churp, dom anmain;
rop tú mo flaithius i n-nim 's i talmain.
Rop tussu t' áenur sainserc mo chride;
ní rop nech aile acht Airdrí nime.
Co talla forum, ré n-dul it láma,
mo chuit, mo chotlud, ar méit do gráda.
Rop tussu t' áenur m' urrann úais amra:
ní chuinngim daíne ná maíne marba.
Rop amlaid dínsiur cech sel, cech sáegul,
mar marb oc brénad, ar t' fégad t' áenur.
Do serc im anmain, do grád im chride,
tabair dam amlaid, a Rí secht nime.
Tabair dam amlaid, a Rí secht nime,
do serc im anmain, do grád im chride.
Go Ríg na n-uile rís íar m-búaid léire;
ro béo i flaith nime i n-gile gréine
A Athair inmain, cluinte mo núall-sa:
mithig (mo-núarán!) lasin trúagán trúag-sa.
A Chríst mo chride, cip ed dom-aire,
a Flaith na n-uile, rop tú mo baile.

English Translation[edit]

by Mary Byrne, 1905

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.
Be thou my speech, be thou my understanding.
Be thou with me, be I with thee
Be thou my father, be I thy son.
Mayst thou be mine, may I be thine.
Be thou my battle-shield, be thou my sword.
Be thou my dignity, be thou my delight.
Be thou my shelter, be thou my stronghold.
Mayst thou raise me up to the company of the angels.
Be thou every good to my body and soul.
Be thou my kingdom in heaven and on earth.
Be thou solely chief love of my heart.
Let there be none other, O high King of Heaven.
Till I am able to pass into thy hands,
My treasure, my beloved through the greatness of thy love
Be thou alone my noble and wondrous estate.
I seek not men nor lifeless wealth.
Be thou the constant guardian of every possession and every life.
For our corrupt desires are dead at the mere sight of thee.
Thy love in my soul and in my heart --
Grant this to me, O King of the seven heavens.
O King of the seven heavens grant me this --
Thy love to be in my heart and in my soul.
With the King of all, with him after victory won by piety,
May I be in the kingdom of heaven O brightness of the son.
Beloved Father, hear, hear my lamentations.
Timely is the cry of woe of this miserable wretch.
O heart of my heart, whatever befall me,
O ruler of all, be thou my vision.

English Versification[edit]

by Eleanor Hull, 1912; this version was popularised by virtue of its place in the English Hymnal

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be 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.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
Be thou my soul's shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
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 Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of Heaven, thou Heaven's bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won!;
Great heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Words as found at #256 of The Methodist Hymnal, 1964[edit]

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, and I thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
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.

Modern Irish Translations[edit]

The hymn has been translated into modern Irish many times. The most popular is that by Aodh Ó Dúgain of Gaoth Dobhair, County Donegal. Two verses of his translation were recorded by his grand-daughter Moya Brennan – the first time any part of his text has been publicly recorded. Since then, those two verses have been recorded by many artists including Roma Downey & Aoife and Iona.

These verses are very close translations to the first two of the Old Irish text above.

Bí Thusa ’mo shúile a Rí mhór na ndúil
Líon thusa mo bheatha mo chéadfaí ’s mo stuaim
Bí thusa i m'aigne gach oíche ’s gach lá
Im chodladh no im dhúiseacht, líon mé le do ghrá.
Bí thusa ’mo threorú i mbriathar ’s i mbeart
Fan thusa go deo liom is coinnigh mé ceart
Glac cúram mar Athair, is éist le mo ghuí
Is tabhair domsa áit cónaí istigh i do chroí.

Modern Scottish Gaelic Translation[edit]

With Old Irish being the ancestor language of Modern Scottish Gaelic, the song was translated by Céitidh Mhoireasdan and publish by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Soills’ Air Mo Smuain

Dèan dhòmh-sa tuigse,
Cuir soils’ air mo smuain;
Dh’iarrainn gur Tu
Bhiodh ’gam stiùreadh gach uair;
Làmh rium ’s an oidhche
Is romhan ’s an tràth,
Réidh rium ’sa mhadainn
Agus glèidh mi tro’n latha.
Ceartas do m’ bhriathran
Agus fìrinn do m’ bheul,
Thusa toirt iùil dhomh
’S mi dlùth riut, a Dhè.
Athair, thoir gràdh dhomh,
Gabh mis’ thugad fhéin;
Cum mi ri d’ thaobh
Is bi daonnan ’nam chrè.
Dìon mi, a Thighearna,
Ri mo chliathaich ’s gach feachd;
Cum mi fo d’ sgiath
’S thoir dhomh misneachd is neart,
Fasgadh do m’ anam
Is mi ri d’uchd dlùth;
Treòraich mi dhachaigh,
Dhè chumhachdaich Thu.
Beartas cha’n fhiach leam;
No miann chlann ’nan daoin’,
Thusa na m’ fhianais
Fad làithean mo shaogh’il
Thusa, Dhè ghràsmhoir,
A-mhain na mo chrìdh’,
Le blaths is gràdh sìorraidh,
Mo thighearna ’s mo Rìgh.

Other languages[edit]

  • Bahasa Indonesia - Kaulah, ya Tuhan, Surya hidupku
  • Dutch - Wees Mijn Verlangen
  • French - Qu'en toi je vive, Seigneur bien aimé
  • German - Steh mir vor Augen
  • Norwegian - Deg å få skode
  • Spanish - Oh Dios, Sé Mi Visión or Oh Dios de mi alma, Sé Mi Visión
  • Welsh - "Bydd yn Welediad fy nghalon a'm byw"
  • Ukrainian - Будь мені, Боже, метою життя
  • Swedish - Närmare mig
  • A Swedish ballad titled Gå inte förbi was recorded by Sissel Kyrkjebø and Peter Jöback in 2003 using the melody 'Slane' (the usual melody for Be Thou My Vision) but the lyrics have little to do with the Irish text.
  • Chinese - 成为我异象

Tune[edit]

The tune Slane

The music is the Irish folk song, Slane. The folk song has little prior connection to the text. The two were first combined in the Irish Church Hymnal in 1919.[6]

Recordings[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Be Thou My Vision at Cyberhymnal
  2. ^ Songs and Hymns entry
  3. ^ "The New Methodist Hymn Book Illustrated", John Telford (Epworth Press, London, 1934): This old Irish poem was translated by Mary E. Byrne M.A. of the University of Ireland, an Irish Research worker to the Board of Intermediate Education. It was versified by Miss Eleanor Henrietta Hull, founder of the Irish Text Society, its secretary in 1899 and sometimes President of the Irish Literary Society of London and author of books on Ireland.
  4. ^ http://www.hymnary.org/text/lord_of_all_hopefulness_lord_of_all_joy
  5. ^ http://www.hymnary.org/text/god_in_the_planning_and_purpose_of_life
  6. ^ Smith III, James D. "Be Thou My Vision". Christianity Today Library. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 

External links[edit]