I Bind Unto Myself Today (Saint Patrick’s Breastplate)

For the St. Patrick’s Day, “I Bind Unto Myself Today  (Saint Patrick’s Breastplate)”. This hymn or poem is adapted from a work attributed to Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick was a missionary to Ireland in the fifth century. He is known as the Apostle of Ireland. You can listen to a free recording of the “Confession of Saint Patrick On LibriVox. In it he tells of being captured by pirates, being a slave in Ireland, becoming a Christian, and becoming a missionary to Ireland.

The lyrics below were adapted by Cecil Francis Alexander (1818-1895). She was born in Ireland. Not only was she a poet and hymnwriter, she also cared for the poor and opened a school for the deaf.

You can find lyrics along with sheet music Online Here.

As with many hymns, there are different versions with different verses. Below is one. You can listen to a slightly different one than the one below here on YouTube.

I Bind Unto Myself Today  (Saint Patrick’s Breastplate)

Words St. Patrick adapted by Cecil Frances Alexander & music by Charles V. Stanford

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heav’nly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heav’nly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord

This poem or lyric is in iambic pentameter with four feet per line (de-um, de-um, de-um, de-dum). Often at the end of the last line there is an extra unstressed beat (de-dum-de).

Stanza one about the trinity has four lines and a rhyme scheme of second and fourth line rhyming.  

Stanza two through six are eight lines each with an aba’b’cdc’d’ rhyme scheme. That is, the first and third line rhyme, the second and fourth line rhyme, the fifth and seventh line rhyme, and the sixth and eighth line rhyme.

Stanza seven is different from the other stanzas with its poetic power from the repeated words “Christ” and “me”.

Stanza seven concludes with a repetition of stanza one with four more aba’b’ rhyming  lines added.

I do not think a summary of I Bind Unto Myself Today  (Saint Patrick’s Breastplate) would do it justice. But note the scope of subjects brought up and how they all fit together with each other, Christ’s work, and the Trinity in our Christian life. It can also be helpful to see what the focus of the poem is about and what each stanza is about. The focus of the poem is taking on God and his good for Christian life and work, even battle. There are eight stanzas. The first and the last focus on the Trinity. In between these bookends, the stanzas cover the work of Christ, God’s creation, the power of God, two stanzas increasing an emphasis as to the threats to be resisted, and an interlude of sorts about Christ. Again, it concludes with the Trinity; this time in more detail. The best way to understand a poem is to read it and reread it with enjoyment.

Christian Poetry
Hymns and Songs