An ancient Irish hymn, Be Thou My Vision dates from at least the eighth century with some sources dating it even older, attributing it to sixth-century Irish poet and monk, Dallan Forgaill. The text was translated from Old Irish into English by Mary Elizabeth Byrne in 1905, versified into its current version by Eleanor Hull, and then paired with an old Irish folk tune, Slane, to create the beloved hymn we sing in churches today.
While Be Thou My Vision is the most popular text sung to this familiar tune, numerous other hymn texts have been written and paired with the melody. Lord of All Hopefulness, penned by English author Jan Struther and published in 1931, is likely the most well known of the bunch. Its four insightful verses ask for God’s presence throughout an entire day – waking in the morning, laboring through the day, returning home, and sleeping at night – and the second verse has a nice reminder that Jesus was a laborer “whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe.”
For my piano arrangement of Be Thou My Vision (or if you prefer, Lord of All Hopefulness), I wanted the simple lilting melody to really shine. So I kept the adornments to a minimum and created a soothing, uncluttered setting that allows listeners to meditate on the hymn’s well-known words. Thanks to the arrangement’s simplicity, it’s quick to prepare and can be a staple in the church pianist’s repertoire for worship services throughout the year (especially during Lent) as well as for weddings and funerals. And with its Irish history, naturally it’s perfect for any Sunday near St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy! 🙂
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.