A woman to the holy father went,
Confession of sin was her intent;
And so her misdemeanors, great and small,
She faithfully rehearsed them all;
And, chiefest in her catalogue of sin.
She owned that she a tale-bearer had been;
And borne a bit of scandal up and down
To all the long-tongued gossips in the town.
The holy father, for her other sin,
Granted the absolution asked of him;
But while for all the rest he pardon gave,
He told her this offense was very grave,
And that to do fit penance she must go
Out by the wayside where the thistles grow,
And gather the largest, ripest, one,
Scatter the seeds, and that when this was done.
To tell him his commands she did obey.
She must come back again another day.
The woman, thinking this a penance light,
Hastened to do his will that very night;
Feeling right glad she had escaped so well,
Next day but one she went the priest to tell.
The priest sat still and heard her story through.
Then said, "There's something still for you to do;
Those little thistle seeds that you have sowu,
I bid you go reguther every one."
The woman said, "But, father, 'twould be vain
To try and gather up those seeds again;
The wind hath scattered them both far and wide,
Over the meadows, vale and mountain side."
The father answered, "Now I hope from this
The lesson I have taught you will not miss;
You cannot gather back the scattered seeds,
Which far and wide will grow to noxious weeds,
Nor can the mischief once by scandal sown
By any penance be again undone."