Be Thou My Vision

What a lovely song!  The Irish gift for melody combined with great thoughts.  Unfortunately, these thoughts are clouded by some archaic language.  Alternatives, which I believe are faithful to the likely original intent, are set out below.

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, be 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 buckler, my sword for the fight;
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight,
Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my high tower;
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O power of my pow’r.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
Thou my inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, when vict’ry is won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n's sun!
Heart of my heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O ruler of all.

Lyrics trans. from Irish Folk Hymn by Mary E. Byrne & then Eleanor H. Hull

Comments and Suggestions:

The line "naught be all else to me save that Thou art" must have been opaque even to singers a century ago.  Compounded of a negative ("naught"), an implied comparative ("all else"), and then language indicating exception ("save that"), the mind reels to trace the thought:  indeed, the expected sense of the line would really call for a "than" (to complete the comparative introduced by "all else") as opposed to leaving the comparison open and moving to what on its face is denominated as an exception ("save that").  The renewed lyrics assume that the simple sense of the intended thought is:  "God, let nothing mean more to me than you do."  The lyrics have been accordingly adapted. 

"Heed" and "need" are admittedly not the same thing:  heed means to pay attention to.  The word is no longer in common use (when was the last time you heard a parent say, "Heed me!"), but also has no short synonyms.  In this context, the idea is that the singer is not going to listen to the call of riches; hence, they will have no power over the singer and the singer does not feel a need for the riches.  Given the lyrical constraints, "need" seems a good, understandable substitute that more readily conveys meaning to the singer.

Alternative lyrics address gender inclusiveness within the rhyme scheme, but add some nice thoughts in doing so.  It should be noted that "sonship" had special inheritance aspects that are lost in moving to "child," but this loss is only to the extent that these connotations persist in the minds of the singers of today.  They may not.

Lord, be my Vision, be my guiding star;
Nothing is more to me, Lord, than you are.
You my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Your presence my light.

You be my Wisdom, and You my true Word;
I ever with You, and You with me, Lord;
You my great Father, I your true son;
You in me dwelling, and I with you one.
  or You my great Father, I your true child;
      You in me dwelling, through Christ reconciled.

You be my hand Shield, my Sword for the fight;
You be my Dignity, You my Delight;
You my soul’s Shelter, You my high Tower;
Raise me up heav’nward, O Power of my power.

I need no riches, nor man’s empty praise;
  or I need no riches, no earthly vain praise;
You’re my inheritance, now and always.
You and You only, first in my mind,
High King of Heaven, the Treasure I find.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n's Sun!
Heart of my heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Renewal lyric changes by RH Reinhard (c) 2014, 2016