"There has fallen a splendid tear"
The elegance of Edwardian England - Portrait of Lady Astor (1909) - John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Public DomainThe elegance of Edwardian England - Portrait of Lady Astor (1909) - John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) - Credit: John Singer Sargent

For Virginia Woolf's narrator, the verse beginning, 'There has fallen a splendid tear...' conveys the 'essence' of male  pre-war Edwardian England.

It comes from one of Tennyson's poems entitled Maud (1855/1856), which is often referred to by its opening line, 'Come into the garden, Maud'.

'Come into the garden, Maud,

For the black bat, night, has flown,

Come into the garden, Maud,

I am here at the gate alone.'

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Its lush romanticism, tinged with sadness, would have been deeply appealing to Victorian audiences, but its slightly over-ripe quality tends to give it a somewhat comical flavour, open to parody. Joyce Grenfell (the actress and comedienne) did, in fact, co-write a satirical version of it in 1951, entitled Maud's Reply.

A modified version of the poem, created by the musical publisher John Boosey and set to the music of Michael William Balfe, was a popular Victorian parlour song.

Listen on Spotify: Come into the garden, Maud