19th Century


Ellen was the daugh­ter of Mar­tin Tup­per and Isa­bel­la De­vis.

She and her sis­ters pub­lished a vol­ume of orig­in­al po­ems, with some trans­la­tions from the Swed­ish, titled Po­ems by Three Sis­ters.



The Conversion of King Edwin

King Edwin sat in his castle hall,
Twelve hundred years ago;
He had no traitor within the wall,
And he feared no foreign foe:
Yet his face was weary and full of care,
And bent was his thoughtful brow,
As if the weight he had to bear
Had overpowered him now.

His realm was broad and fair to view,
With valleys, woods, and rills,
Wild moorlands, and calm waters blue
Nestling among the hills:
From Humber away to the Firth of Forth
All people owned his sway;
Yet this fair kingdom of the North
In heathen darkness lay.

The news had to the king been brought,
That from a southern shore
A stranger came, and that he taught
A faith unknown before:
And therefore was it that he looked sad,
And filled with gloomy doubt:
And straight his messengers he bade
Call all his people out.

They met upon a lofty hill,
All in those days of eld:
Though long ago, men point out still
Where this debate was held:
Long time they talked, and loud and fast
Opposed with might and main
Each scald and priest; until at last
Uprose a worthy thane;

And thus he spake: “When thou, O king!
Wert supping one cold night,
A little sparrow, on swift wing,
Came into the warmth and light,
A moment stayed, then fled away
Into the frosty air;
From whence it came we cannot say,
It went we know not where:

And is not this the case with men
Here in this world below?
We come and stay awhile, and then
We know not where we go—
It is all dark: but if, indeed,
This man can new things preach,
Oh, let us to his words give heed,
And hear what he will teach.

He ceased; and then replied the king:
Thy words are wise: go thou,
O worthy thane, and quickly bring
This man before me now.

He came—a simple, aged man—
With purpose high and good;
Among that fierce and heathen clan
Fearless alone he stood.

And then he told, in accents mild,
That story loved so well,
How the great God became a child,
With men on earth to dwell:
And how, betrayed by His own friend,
His precious life He gave:
And died, that our life should not end,
But last beyond the grave.

He told them of that Heaven above,
Where, freed from this world’s care,
They, too, might dwell in peace and love,
The bliss of saints to share:
And God so blessed His holy word,
Spoken in love and power,
That king and people, all who heard,
Were converts from that hour.

And so this dark, benighted land,
Received the light of day,
That as a beacon she might stand
In ages far away:
And still are seen the minsters twain,
Pointing their spires on high,
Which king and people, priest and thane,
Founded in days gone by.

Ellin Isabelle Tupper
Poems by Three Sisters, 1864



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