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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Thangbrand the Priest

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

From ‘The Saga of King Olaf’ in ‘Tales of a Wayside Inn’

SHORT of stature, large of limb,

Burly face and russet beard,

All the women stared at him,

When in Iceland he appeared.

“Look!” they said,

With nodding head,

“There goes Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.”

All the prayers he knew by rote,

He could preach like Chrysostome,

From the Fathers he could quote.

He had even been at Rome.

A learned clerk,

A man of mark,

Was this Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest

He was quarrelsome and loud,

And impatient of control,

Boisterous in the market crowd,

Boisterous at the wassail-bowl;


Would drink and swear,—

Swaggering Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest

In his house this malcontent

Could the King no longer bear,

So to Iceland he was sent

To convert the heathen there;

And away

One summer day

Sailed this Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.

There in Iceland, o’er their books

Pored the people day and night;

But he did not like their looks,

Nor the songs they used to write.

“All this rhyme

Is waste of time!”

Grumbled Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.

To the alehouse, where he sat,

Came the skalds and saga-men:

Is it to be wondered at

That they quarreled now and then,

When o’er his beer

Began to leer

Drunken Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest?

All the folk in Altafiord

Boasted of their island grand;

Saying in a single word,

“Iceland is the finest land

That the sun

Doth shine upon!”

Loud laughed Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.

And he answered, “What’s the use

Of this bragging up and down,

When three women and one goose

Make a market in your town!”

Every skald

Satires scrawled

On poor Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.

Something worse they did than that:

And what vexed him most of all

Was a figure in shovel hat,

Drawn in charcoal on the wall;

With words that go

Sprawling below,

“This is Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.”

Hardly knowing what he did,

Then he smote them might and main:

Thorvald Veile and Veterlid

Lay there in the alehouse slain.

“To-day we are gold,

To-morrow mold!”

Muttered Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.

Much in fear of axe and rope,

Back to Norway sailed he then.

“O King Olaf! Little, hope

Is there of these Iceland men!”

Meekly said,

With bending head,

Pious Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.