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Be Thou My Vision: An Irish Hymn for St. Patrick's Day

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.


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"Be Thou My Vision" is one of the UK's most popular hymns, and it's got a following of fans in America, as well.

The text is attributed to Saint Dallán Forgaill, written in the 6th century as "Rop tú mo Baile" in Old Irish. Some scholars date it to the 8th century, however.

"Rop tú mo Baile"/"Be Thou My Vision" is a lorica prayer: essentially, a prayer of protection in which the petitioner invokes God and His power to protect him or her from evil. The practice draws on Ephesians 6: 16-17 when Paul calls Christians to put on the armor of God. 

The symbolism of armor was perhaps quite familiar to Celtic Christians. These were days of clan warfare (in fact, in the hymn, God is referred to as High King, or Chieftan), but also, the awareness that Christians needed protection for dark spiritual forces was common. Pehraps the most famous lorica prayer is that of St. Patrick, which is also sung as a hymn ("I bind unto myself today the Strong Name of the Trinity...").


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https://goo.gl/images/Zhsi9d
"Rop tú mo Baile" was translated into modern English in 1905 by Mary Elizabeth Byrne in Ériu, the journal of the School of Irish Learning. In 1912, the text was versified by Eleanor Hull, president of the Irish Literary Society, and we still sing her lyrics today.

The tune we sing to is "Slane"--named for the Irish town in which it was collected. The tune itself was first published as the music to accompany a folk song called "With My Love on the Road."
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Slane Hill ruins, County Meath. https://goo.gl/images/a8r7BR
Is "Be Thou My Vision" one you sing in church?

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.

***

Susanne Dietze is the award-winning author of over a dozen romances. You can learn more about her on her website, www.susannedietze.com.

Comments

  1. I love this one and it often brings a tear to my eye. I didn't know its history. Thanks for sharing this wonderful history!

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    1. I didn't know its history, either, but when I learned it had been a lorica prayer, I was excited to learn more. The words are wonderful to "bind" unto one's self!

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  2. Thank you, Susie. It's going to be a great day with this beautiful hymn flowing through my mind as I go about my busy schedule.

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    1. I'm hoping the tune runs through my head today, as well! I also hope your busy day is wonderful and blessed!

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  3. One of my favorites. My oldest son is an Irish fiddler. I need to have him play this one for me more often.

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    1. Oh, that would be wonderful! I love that! (I think it's so neat that he's an Irish fiddler. What a joy!)

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