if you can’t be good, be careful

Cf. mid 11th-cent. L. si non caste tamen caute; 1303 R. BRUNNE Handlyng Synne (EETS) 1. 8316 The apostle seyth thys autoryte [dictum], ‘Gyf thou be nat chaste, be thou pryue [secret].’ 1528 W. TYNDALE Obedience of Christian Man 73 As oure lawears saye, si non caste tamen caute, this is, if ye live not chaste, se ye cary clene [act properly], and playe the knave secretly.

1903 A. M. BINSTEAD Pitcher in Paradise viii. Always bear in mind what the country mother said to her daughter who was coming up to town to be apprenticed to the Bond Street millinery, ‘For heaven’s sake be good; but if you can’t be good, be careful.’

1907 B. SCOTT (song-title) If you can’t be good—be careful.

1982 S. GRANT DUFF Parting of Ways xvii. Tommy..gave me a stern warning... ‘Never meet a German in Prague... Be good, and if you can’t, be very careful.’

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