I’ve sung Be Thou My Vision well-nigh over two thousand times in recent years.
It’s been Lucy’s lullaby since her tiniest days, and my renditions have nearly always been delivered to the gentle rocking of her baby head on my shoulder, or to the quiet of her room at dusk… though in that curious stage when she despised her carseat, I once belted all five verses in a loop on our way to meet Y for lunch.
I started singing as I hauled the baby carrier out to the car. And I kept going after I got in the driver’s seat, but I had to sing loud enough for her to hear me over her cries… which means I was soon driving the twenty minutes to the bookstore whilst singing “Be Thou My Vision” at the top of my lungs. Repeatedly, and complete with key changes.
Rest assured, I did not fail to see the humor of the situation. But it wasn’t until she had been fast asleep for five verses and I found myself still singing with gusto that I started to giggle. Musically, it was all downhill from there.
Yet for all that, I’ve never grown tired of the hymn. Different lines have stood out to bring me the balm of comfort or cut me to the quick over the years.
I still love it, and it’s still one of my most oft-prayed prayers.
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 tower
Raise Thou me heavenward, O power 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 Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
– Originally a prayer, “Rop tú mo Baile,” by Dallan Forgaill; translated by Mary Elizabeth Byrne; versified by Eleanor Hull; later modified by the United Methodist church. (Our version seems to be a conflation of the latter two.) Sung to the traditional Irish tune “Slane.”