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"ODE TO MASTER ANTHONY STAFFORD" Thomas Randolph (n.d.) Thomas Randolph wrote "Ode to Master Anthony Stafford," considered one of the most beautiful odes in the English language. Critics characterize it as a strong example of Randolph's use of Latinisms, demonstrating his study of Roman classics such as those by Ovid and Martial. In typical ode form the poem is constructed in rhymed stanzas. The speaker directly addresses his subject, Master Stafford, in a plea to go to the country from the town, beginning:
Come, spur away, I have no patience for a longer stay,
But must go down, And leave the chargeable noise of this great town.
He follows with four three-feet lines with a rhyme scheme of aabb, writing,
I will the country see, Where old simplicity, Though hid in grey, Doth look more gay.
The speaker's contrast is to aspects of the city, "foppery in plush and scarlet clad." He casts the city in a negative light, describing its "wits" as "Almost at civil war." That allows the speaker to offer as more beneficial the seductive advantages of the country. The fifth stanza notes some of those attractions specifically, including the cool shade and music famously made by the many birds of the field. Randolph mentions "Philomel," the classic reference to a nightingale and the tales she tells, as well as the thrush and blackbird. His beautiful phrasing may be seen in the description of the birds who "lend their throats / Warbling melodious notes" with the open vowels adding assonance pleasing to the ear.
Randolph reflects the traditional high emotion and expression expected of an ode, including more classical references in his final stanza. The speaker promises Stafford that they will "taste of Bacchus' blessings now and then," referring to the drinking of wine. He also says he will "take my pipe and try / The Phrygian melody," where Phrygian refers to music of praise. That formula, commonly used in the 16th and 17th centuries, involved a move downward of a minor second from the main virtual pitch. The music he promises will be "Doric," referencing the Dorian mode in music, named for the Dorian Greeks. Doric Greek music is based on the Dorian tetrachord, a series of rising intervals of semitones followed by whole tones.
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