In these stanzas Burns attacks hypocrisy. Willie, we discover, is a sexual predator, preying on servant girls as a matter of course, begging God’s pardon and then justifying his actions.
Arrogantly, he feels able to prompt God, with little ingratiating signals:
But Thou remembers,
Maybe Thou lets. He uses a sprinkling of Biblical word choice and metaphors:
we are dust/ Defil’d wi’ sin and
this fleshly thorn.
He also tries to demonstrate his true obedience:
But get, O Lord!,
Thy servant true,
Thy hand ma’un e’en be borne, while also trying to strike a deal with God. If God lets him off, he will not do it again. However, he then decides that God has deliberately created this flaw in him as a defence against pride- a very convenient piece of logic.
In amongst all this self-praise and justification come his confessions: not the kind of passion which is based on real affection, but a cynical campaign of sexual exploitation. He diminishes the significance of his actions with a well-worn and insincere excuse- he was drunk:
But Lord, that Friday I was fou/When I came near her
Dignifying his lust as some kind of legitimate torture that
e’en and morn allows him to move quickly on to the prayer’s main purpose.