23 October 2009

Be Thou My Vision - St. Patrick's Day

The eighth-century prayer was composed in Old Irish:
Rob tu mo bhoile,
a Comdi cride.
Ni ni nech aile,
acht ri secht nime …

Legend has it that a this prayer’s roots has its tradition beginning around 433 AD. It is said that the night before Easter, St. Patrick lit candles, defying one of a (high) king of Ireland’s pagan traditions.
The prayer itself is said to be found in Old Irish around the 8th century. Our classical English version now begins:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Nought 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.

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 joy, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O ruler of all.


However,  Mary Byrne put the traditional prayer into English
at the turn of the 20th century and, transliterated,
it is somewhat different:


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 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.