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Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tales of a Wayside Inn

IX

THANGBRAND THE PRIEST

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,
    Everywhere
    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 Scalds and Saga-men;
Is it to be wondered at,
  That they quarrelled 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 Scald
    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 mould!"
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