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.
There is an interesting story behind the writing and composing of this hymn. It begins back in A.D 373. That is the year that Patrick (better known as St. Patrick) was born NOT in Ireland, but along the banks of the river Clyde in Scotland. According to Robert J Morgan, an author of hymn stories, Patrick’s father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest. Raiders seized Patrick when he was 16 and took him to Ireland as a slave. It was there that he gave his life to the Lord. He later said, “The Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief in order that I might remember and run with all my heart to the Lord my God”.
Patrick later escaped and returned home to Scotland but had a dream reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s vision of the Macedonian man in Acts 16. Patrick saw a vision of an Irishman pleading with him to come and evangelise Ireland. So at age 30, he went back to the land of his former captors with just a copy of the Latin Bible – and evangelised the countryside. Despite the opposition of the Druids, Patrick planted about 200 churches and baptised over 100,000 converts to Christianity. Fast forward to the 19th century, we find that an unknown poet wrote a prayer asking God to be his vision, his Wisdom and his Best Thought by day and by night. Finally, in 1905, Mary Elizabeth Byrne, a scholar in Dublin, translated this old poem into the English language. Another Scholar, Eleanor Hull of Manchester, England, crafted it into verses and rhyme and meter … it was set to a traditional Irish folk song, “Slane “, named for an area in Ireland where Patrick reportedly challenged local Druids with the gospel.
Eleanor Hull 1912 made the following version which 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.