For those not versed in pre-20th-century syntax, the last bit of that quotation means 'and let the people who are misguided enough to want to be clever do whatever they like, poor godless souls', though of course that would not have scanned at all.
When I was a child my mum used to say it to me a lot, presumably because she thought I was an insufferable little smartarse. I don't think it ever occurred to her that she was also implying that I was bad. But what she thought of as cleverness was definitely something she didn't completely trust.
This of course is one of the things that informs the oft-repeated adjective 'clever' to describe the Prime Minister, which has been just a tad overdone in recent weeks. Like the Kingsley line, if only in its implication, it appears to construct 'clever' and 'good' as mutually exclusive.
Alas, yes: this time it's a Labor dog-whistle, being blown by their use of the word 'clever' in a sneering, grudging, nobody-loves-a-smartarse kind of way. Labor is calling Howard 'clever' as an insult: a synonym, directed at those who know how to interpret its use, for 'overflowing with rat cunning and seriously not to be trusted for a nanosecond'.
Now, the Prime Minister is, as we say, big enough and ugly enough to look after himself, and his tender feelings are not what concern me here. It's the sub-Orwellian abuse of language in the service of politics, and more specifically the use of the word 'clever' as a barely disguised insult, that is getting me down. That, and the hypocrisy of Kevin Rudd's use of it in particular; Rudd makes no secret of the fact that he actually values intelligence highly, most of all his own. When he indulges in this mediocrity-valorising verbal tic, he isn't even being sincere. It's not a pretty sight.
And the result of Labor's chant of 'Howard is very clever' is to pander to and reinforce the general national mistrust of any form of cleverness -- in exactly the same way that the Howard government has devalued the word 'elite': the way the two major parties are using these words leaves the Australian public in no doubt that both the elite (that's the so-called cultural elite, of course; the sporting elite is, well, you know, elite) and the 'clever' are to be sneered at, mistrusted, resented and deplored.
This kind of thing is the 'exaltation of the average' that frightened the bejesus out of Patrick White in 1958. It's alive and well and living on both sides of Australian politics.
As for 'Be good, sweet maid', I've just (for the first time) looked it up: it's from a short poem by the 19th century British clergyman and writer Charles Kingsley. Those who recognise his name will probably remember him as the author of the allegorical and highly political children's book The Water Babies.
And if only my Ma in the 1960s, and with her both of the major Australian political parties in 2007, had paid more attention to the next line of his poem. 'Do noble things, not dream them, all day long.'