Posted by: rcottrill | July 2, 2010

Today in 1880 – Mary Byrne Born

Mary Elizabeth Byrne was an Irish author, researcher and linguist. She contributed to such reference works as the Old and Mid-Irish Dictionary and the Dictionary of the Irish Language. In 1905, she translated into prose an old Irish poem from around the 8th century (Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride). The English translation was versified in 1912 by Eleanor Hull, and it became the hymn Be Thou My Vision. (For more on Eleanor Hull, see the second item under Today in 1836.)

The word “vision” is used in this case to mean not only something seen, but a goal to aspire to. The hymn expresses an all-encompassing life commitment such as we see in the Apostle Paul who confessed, “Not as though I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus as laid hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

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 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 power.

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.

(2) Come, Holy Spirit, Calm My Mind (Data Missing)
Here is a lovely little prayer hymn of unknown origin. (You can hear the tune on the Cyber Hymnal.)

How often have we prayed from a barren sense of duty, or else rushed into the presence of God, with anything and everything on our minds except communing with our heavenly Father? Here is a prayer for such times.

Come, Holy Spirit, calm my mind,
And fit me to approach my God;
Remove each vain, each worldly thought,
And lead me to Thy blest abode.

Hast Thou imparted to my soul
A living spark of heavenly fire?
O kindle now the sacred flame;
Teach it to burn with pure desire.

Impress upon my wandering mind
The love that Christ for sinners bore;
And give a new, a contrite heart,
A heart the Saviour to adore.

A brighter faith and hope impart,
And let me now the Saviour see;
O soothe and cheer my burdened heart,
And bid my spirit rest in Thee.


  1. Mr. Robert, thank you for this background on a favorite hymn of my wife and I. We actually had a friend of my sister sing this hymn in our wedding. I really enjoy the work you are doing on these hymns and hope to one day see it published! Even though I am “young” (34) I love hymns. Thanks again!

    • Ah, there is hope for the younger generation yet! Thanks for the encouragement. I have been studying and writing about hymns for 40, sometimes feeling like a lone voice in the wilderness. But the blog has attracted many readers who see the value in this great heritage. Thanks again.

  2. Be Thou My Vision has been one of my favourite hymns for years! Thanks for the history! 🙂

    • Your welcome. Any time!

  3. […] Hustad arranged an old Irish folk tune and it became the hymn tune Slane, to which we sing Be Thou My Vision. The name comes from the fact that it was on Slane Hill, around 433 AD, that Patrick defied a royal […]

  4. […] a bit more about the origin of this hymn, see Today in 1880. Concerning the tune, Slane, see Item #2 under Today in […]


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