~ Sunday Hymn history ~
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Be Thou My Vision
Submitted By margery on 10/02/08
A Maiden's Musings, margery, Documents, Hymn History, Music, Praise, Worship, Thoughts, Ireland, Gaelic, Folk Songs, Christ, Articles  

I have been writing up some hymn stories that I was researching recently, and decided to share them here.
I am fascinated by the amazing histories behind many of the hymns we know and love.  It is inspiring to know that christians who have gone before have experienced the same trials and difficulties as we undergo today. . . and that God used those times to bring us some of the most uplifting and well-loved hymns in history.
 "Be Thou My Vision" is a hymn derived from an old folk song. It expresses a desire for God’s hand in our lives and a longing to be in His presence. The first words are credited to Dallan Forgaill in a work entitled, in gaelic, Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride. 
The folk song got its start in Ireland around 433 AD, when St. Patrick lit a fire in defiance of a royal decree. 
It was the eve of Easter and the Spring Equinox. St. Patrick knew that High King Logaire would be at Tara to celebrate  the pagan festival. In direct defiance to the law that no fire should be lit in the vicinity of the sacred festival fire at Tara, St. Patrick lit a bonfire on the Hill of Slane! King Logaire drove his chariot in a towering passion to the Hill of Slane to arrest the rebel, but St. Patrick was so eloquent in his preaching, the King was soon pacified and St. Patrick was allowed to preach Christianity to the entire pagan army. 
The traditional tune setting for this hymn is called Slane, after the hill on which St. Patrick preached.

Only in this century did the text find its English translation, when Mary Byrne rendered it into literal English prose in 1905.  It remained for Eleanor M. Hull, in her 1912 Poem Book of the Gael to offer a metrical, poetic version of Byrne's work in twelve rhymed couplets that have been used by editors since to arrive at versions of the four-stanza hymn so widely loved and treasured today.  

Here is the literal english translation from the original gaelic.

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,
whate'er befall me,
O ruler of all,
be thou my vision.
Gute Nacht, meine Damen!

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