I know how father’s strap would feel,
If ever I were caught,
So mother’s jam I did not steal,
Though theft was in my thought.
Then turned fourteen and full of pitch,
Of love I was afraid,
And did not dare to dally with
Our pretty parlour maid.
And so it is and always was,
The path of rectitude
I’ve followed all my life because
The Parson said I should.
The dread of hell-fire held me straight
When I was wont to stray,
And though my guts I often hate,
I walk the narrow way.
I might have been a bandit or
A Casanovish blade,
But always I have prospered for
I’ve always been afraid;
Ay, fear’s behind the best of us
And schools us for success,
And that is why I’m virtuous,
And happy – more or less.
So let me hail that mighty power
That goads me to be good,
And makes me cannily to cower
Though I be criminal in gain,
My virtue a veneer,
I thank the God who keeps me sane,
And shields me from distress and pain,
And thrifts me on to golden gain,