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 Amid foolhardihood; 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, Almighty Fear.