Be Thou My Vision

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Be Thou My Vision
Be Thou My Vision, first hymn setting in "Church Hymnal with Accompanying Tunes" (1919).jpg
Native name
  • Rop tú mo baile
  • Rob t×ú mo bhoile
MelodySlane (trad. Irish)
Published6th or 8th century (trans. 1912)
Translations into English, Modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic

"Be Thou My Vision" (Old Irish: Rop tú mo baile or Rob tú mo bhoile) is a traditional Christian hymn of Irish origin. The words are based on a Middle Irish poem that has traditionally been attributed to Dallán Forgaill.[1]

The best-known English version, with some minor variations, was translated in 1905 by Mary Elizabeth Byrne in 1905, then made into verse by Eleanor Hull and published in 1912. Since 1919 it has been commonly sung to an Irish folk tune, noted as "Slane" in church hymnals,[1][2] and is one of the most popular hymns in the United Kingdom.[3]


Church ruins on Slane Hill

The original Old Irish text, "Rop tú mo Baile", is often attributed to Saint Dallán Forgaill in the 6th century.[4] However, scholars believe it was written later than that. Some date it to the 8th century;[5] others putting it as late as the 10th or 11th century.[6] A 14th-century manuscript attributed to Adhamh Ó Cianáin contains a handwritten copy of the poem in Middle Irish, and is held at the National Library of Ireland.[7] A second manuscript is at the Royal Irish Academy, dating from about the 10th or 11th century.

The text of "Rop tú mo Baile"/"Be Thou My Vision" reflects aspects of life in Early Christian Ireland (c.400-800 AD). The prayer belongs to a type known as a lorica, a prayer for protection.[8] The symbolic use of a battle-shield and a sword to invoke the power and protection of God draws on Saint Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:16–17), which refers to "the shield of faith" and "the sword of the Spirit". Such military symbolism was common in the poetry and hymnnology of Christian monasteries of the period due to the prevalence of clan warfare across Ireland.[9] The poem makes reference to God as "King of the Seven Heavens" and the "High King of Heaven".[9] This depiction of the Christian God as a chieftain or High King (Irish: Ard Rí) is a traditional representation in Irish literature; medieval Irish poetry typically used heroic imagery to cast God as a clan protector.[10]

In 1905, "Rop tú mo Baile" was translated from Old Irish into English by Mary Elizabeth Byrne in Ériu, the journal of the School of Irish Learning.[11] The English text was first versified in 1912 by Eleanor Hull, president of the Irish Literary Society, and this is now the most common text used.[12][13]

Musical accompaniment[edit]

The melody "Slane"
The alternative version of "Slane" (upbeats highlighted in red)

The hymn is sung to the melody noted as “Slane” in hymnals, an Irish folk tune in 3
,[14] first published as "With My Love on the Road" in Patrick Joyce's Old Irish Folk Music and Songs in 1909.[15] The tune is a more elemental distillation of earlier forms, such as "The Hielan's o' Scotland'[16] and "By the Banks of the Bann," also compiled in Joyce (1909).[17] The words of "Be Thou My Vision" were first combined with this tune in 1919 (harmonised by Leopold L Dix, 1861-1935),[2] and in a new version harmonised by David Evans in 1927.[18] A further version was harmonised by Erik Routley for the English Hymnal.[19]

In some modern renditions the rhythm of "Slane" is adapted to 4

It was common practice [21] to attribute hymn tune names to the place where they were collected by folk song collectors, such as Vaughan Williams who co-edited The English Hymnal, published in 1906. Slane is a village in Ireland.

Three more 20th century hymns have been set to the same tune. The first was "Lord of All Hopefulness" written by Jan Struther around 1931.[22] The second was "Lord of Creation, to Thee be All Praise" written by J. C. Winslow and first published in 1961.[23] The third was a popular wedding hymn, "God, In the Planning and Purpose of Life", written by John L. Bell and Graham Maule and first appearing in publication in 1989.[24]

Gå inte förbi ("Don't Walk Past") is a duet-single set to the tune, recorded by Swedish singer Peter Jöback and Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø and written by Ulf Schagerman. Jöback sings the lyrics in Swedish while Sissel sings in Norwegian. It was released as a single in 2003 and at an extended reissue of Jöback's Christmas album Jag kommer hem igen till jul. It was a hit in Norway and Sweden in the Christmas time of 2003 and a music video directed by Mikadelica was made in Denmark.[25] Norwegian newspaper VG gave it 4 out of 6.[26]


The original texts of the now-called "Be Thou My Vision" are in Old Irish similar still in style to Modern Irish. 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 granddaughter 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 and Aoife and Iona. These verses are very close translations to the first two of the Old Irish text above.

With Old Irish being the ancestor language of Modern Scottish Gaelic, the song was translated by Céitidh Mhoireasdan and published by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.[27]

Two variants of Eleanor Hull's 1912 English translation exist; one version, commonly used in Irish and Scottish hymnals (including the Hymnbooks of the Church of Scotland), fits the metre, while a paraphrased version that is used in English books (such as the New English Hymnal) is suitable to an anacrucial metre[28][29]

Original Old Irish Text[edit]

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[note 1] mo chride, cip ed dom-aire,
a Flaith na n-uile, rop tú mo baile.

English translation by Mary Byrne (1905)[edit]

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 ever 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 sun.

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.[11]

Modern Irish translation[edit]

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 nó 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.

English version by Eleanor Hull (1912)[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, 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 Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.

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 Heav’n's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

(The English Methodist version from 1964 omits verse 3.)

Alternative English version by Eleanor Hull (1912)[edit]

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Modern Scottish Gaelic translation[edit]

Dèan dhòmh-sa tuigse,
Cuir soills’ air mo smuain;
Dh’iarrainn gur Tu
Bhiodh ’gam stiùreadh gach uair;
Làmh rium ’s an oidhche
Is romham ’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;
Cùm 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-mhàin na mo chrìdh’,
Le blàths is gràdh sìorraidh,
Mo Thighearna ’s mo Rìgh.

Other languages[edit]

  • Bahasa Indonesia - "Kaulah, ya Tuhan, Surya Hidupku", "Dikau, Tuhan, Jadilah Impianku"
  • Chinese - "成為我異象"
  • Dutch - "Wees Mijn Verlangen"
  • French - "Qu'en toi je vive, Seigneur bien aimé"
  • German - "Steh mir vor Augen"
  • Greek - "Γίνε όραμα μου Θεέ της καρδίας"
  • Hungarian - "Légy te menedékem"
  • Italian - "Sii la mia Visione"
  • Japanese - "きみはわれのまぼろし", "こころみの世にあれど"
  • Korean - "내 맘의 주여 소망 되소서"
  • Nepali - "होऊ मेरो दर्शन"
  • Norwegian - "Deg å få skode"
  • Polish - "On moim Panem"
  • Portuguese - "Dono do Meu Coração"
  • Spanish - "Oh Dios, Sé Mi Visión", "Oh Dios de mi alma, Sé Mi Visión"
  • Swedish – "Närmare mig (Herre, du min klippa)"
  • Thai - "โอ้เจ้าแห่งดวงจิต"
  • Ukrainian - "Будь мені, Боже, метою життя"
  • Welsh - "Bydd yn Welediad fy nghalon a'm byw"
  • Romanian - "Fii a mea lumină"
  • Czech - "Buď mojí nadějí"

Modern renditions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Some sources[11] have "cride" instead of "Chríst".


  1. ^ a b Haynes, Richard A. (May 2012). The Spiritual Road. Xulon Press. p. 362 note 2. ISBN 978-1-62230-179-9.
  2. ^ a b 'Be Thou My Vision': first hymn setting in Church Hymnal with Accompanying Tunes (1919)
  3. ^ "BBC One - Songs of Praise - Vote for your favourite hymn". BBC.
  4. ^ Be Thou My Vision Archived 2012-05-19 at the Wayback Machine at Cyberhymnal
  5. ^ Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories, Kregel Publications, 1985, p. 43
  6. ^ Gerard Murphy, Early Irish lyrics: eighth to twelfth century, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956, pp. 42–45, 190–191
  7. ^ Wright, Sheila Louise. ""Rop tú mo Baile" A Traditional 14 th C. Irish Poem/Song". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  8. ^ Daw, Carl P. Jr (May 25, 2016). Glory to God: A Companion. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9781611646528 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ a b Byfield, Ted (2003). Darkness Descends : A.D. 350 to 565, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire. Christian History Project. p. 244. ISBN 9780968987339. Retrieved 11 December 2017. Be Thou My Vision High King of ireland.
  10. ^ Ministries, Discipleship. "History of Hymns: "Be Thou My Vision" -". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Byrne, Mary (1905). "A Prayer". Ériu. Royal Irish Academy. 2: 89–91.
  12. ^ "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."
  13. ^ Bradley, Ian (2006). Daily Telegraph Book of Hymns. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 64. ISBN 9780826482822. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  14. ^ "Be Thou My Vision sheet music" (PDF).
  15. ^ Patrick Joyce, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, 1909, p. 151
  16. ^ Huntington, Gale; Herrmann, Lani (2010). Sam Henry's Songs of the People. University of Georgia Press. p. 487. ISBN 9780820336251. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  17. ^ "Old Irish folk music and songs : a collection of 842 Irish airs and songs, hitherto unpublished". London : Longmans, Green. August 19, 1909 – via Internet Archive.
  18. ^ Smith III, James D. "Be Thou My Vision". Christianity Today Library. Archived from the original on 22 April 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  19. ^ Corymbus. Be Thou My Vision
  20. ^ For example, Be Thou My Vision – revamped Archived September 24, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ ”Hymn Tune Names: their sources and significance”, publisher: Nashville, Abingdon Press (1957). Authors: McCutchan, Robert Guy, page 20
  22. ^ "Lord of All Hopefulness".
  23. ^ Hymns for Church and School. Gresham. 1964. ISBN 0-946095-20-5.
  24. ^ "God, in the Planning".
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2016-11-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "Peter Jöback & Sissel Kyrkjebø: "Gå inte förbi" (single)".
  27. ^ Soills’ Air Mo Smuain
  28. ^ Stainer, John (1913). "477. Be Thou my Vision". The Church Hymnary: Authorized for Use in Public Worship by the Church of Scotland, the United Free Church of Scotland, The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, the Presbyterian Church of South Africa. H. Frowde. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  29. ^ "339. Be Thou my Vision". The New English Hymnal. Canterbury Press. 1998. ISBN 9781853110979.

External links[edit]