Be Thou My Vision

Listen on YouTube (with lyrics)
Listen SoundCloud
Download or Listen on Google Drive
Lyrics & Sheet Music

It is unknown who wrote this beloved hymn. Some scholars believe it to be St. Patrick, some an 8th century Monk Dallan Forgaill. Hymn historian Dr. Hawn believes it to be a collaborative effort as it was found in poem form with 16 original couplets in two Irish manuscripts of the library of the Royal Irish Academy.

It was Irish scholar Mary Byrne who took the poem and translated it into prose in 1905. Then the text changed hands again and was set to verse by Eleanor Hull in 1912 and published in Ireland in Hull’s Poems Book of the Gael.

SLANE, 1919
Hull’s verses for the hymn were paired with traditional Irish folk melody SLANE in 1919 for the Irish Church Hymnal. It spread to Britain and following World War II traveled the Atlantic to the US.

SLANE’s composer is also unknown, though it was associated with a ballad in a folk music collection in 1909.

Slane is the name of a Hill where St. Patrick defiantly lit an Easter fire against the commands of pagan King Logaire. King Logaire was impressed by St. Patrick’s devoutness that he allowed St. Patrick to continue his work as the first Christian missionary to Ireland.

Irish liturgy scholar Helen Phelan explains how the imagery and language of “Be Thou My Vision” is pulled from traditional Irish culture. She writes:
“One of the essential characteristics of the text is the use of ‘heroic’ imagery to describe God. This was very typical of medieval Irish poetry, which cast God as the ‘chieftain’ or ‘High King’ (Ard Ri) who provided protection to his people or clan. The lorica is one of the most popular forms of this kind of protection prayer and is very prevalent in texts of this period.”

Hawn, C. Michael. “History of Hymns: ‘Be Thou My Vision.’” Discipleship Ministries. The United Methodist Church. Web. 19 July 2016.

Report a broken link

Share a comment with your favorite recorded version or other resources for this hymn.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Kim M. says:

    Audrey Assad’s version of Be Thou My Vision

    1. Thanks for sharing Kim. What a clear performance and in keeping with the style of the hymn, while still showing the performer’s style. I am not familiar with Audrey Assad but it seems she has performed a number of well known hymns, including It Is Well With My Soul and Holy, Holy, Holy. What a great resource.

  2. Lindsay Rodgers says:

    Love Rend collectives version. My absolute fav!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s