25 February, 2021

Lattice Of Lyrical Majesticity

The royal masque in Akbar’s glittering court at Fatehpur Sikri is occasion for Sealy’s exquisite poem-prose, decorated with words, absences and old longing

Courtesy: Aleph
Lattice Of Lyrical Majesticity

Elaborate disguises, pomp ceremony and architecture. Enter the king stage right and his flou­nces. Throw in a queen or a courtesan, with the jester doing the sutradhar number as it was in the time of masques and unmaskings. A slow, stately pavane filled with different forms of language, speeches, sonnets and, if necessary, rhymed couplets.

The masque as a form is honoured in these days of minimalism more in the breach than the observance. Ben Jonson used to stage them in the Jacobean era with the flourishes of Inigo Jones. In most cases, the masque was ceremonial, staged to bring history to life or celebrate a marriage. With those guidelines in mind, the 21st century reader should riffle through the pages of this slim volume.

Inspired by Fatehpur Sikri, where the women of Akbar’s harem performed masques in the king’s inner court, I. Alan Sealy has ventured into an exploration of the form and its rules and rites. Zelaldinus is the Jesuit rendering of Jalaludin, one of Akbar’s names and Akbar is the ruler who the masque...

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