The poem” The Tale Of The Melon City” revolves around the city and how the people of that city found a new king, a melon. The story is about a king who had once hit his head from the arch built too low and ordered all the chief builders to be hanged till death. Then the series followed by blaming each other and finally a noose was prepared which will fit the guilty only. The noose was fitted in the neck of the king and he was hanged till death. A new king was then elected by the person who first passed that arch.
The Tale Of The Melon City About The Author
The poem has been written by Vikram Seth, who was born on 20 June 1952 and he is an Indian poet and novelist who has written many novels and poems. For his notable works like the suitable boy, the golden gate, and equal music he has been awarded Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award, crossword book award and many more have adorned his almirah.
Through this poem, he tells about the city where the king has ordered chief builders to be hanged till death as he found them guilty of building a low arch.
The Tale Of The Melon City Theme
The poem begins with a short description of the king who ordered to build an arch and when he was passing through that arch. His crown fell and he found it a disgrace for the king. So, he commanded his troops to send for the chief builders and hanged them all till death.
Then a series of blame games follow in the city. The chief builders put all the blame on the workmen, who in turn blamed the bricks and after that, the king ordered for hanging the mason who put all the blame on the architect.
The architect is brought to the court and he blames that the main culprit is the king himself who has given the wrong orders to construct the arch. The king in anger demanded the wisest man to be present at the royal court. They brought the man, who was so old that he could not see or walk properly.
According to the old man, the arch must be hanged but one of the ministers in the royal court considered it a shameful act. He said that no one can touch the head of the majesty. To this, the king along with the rest of the ministers agreed. Now, there was confusion as to who shall be hanged. A noose was prepared and the one who got fit into that would be hanged till death.
All were one by one measured and at last, the noose got to fit into the king’s neck. The ministers got relief on finding out to execute their process. The king was hanged till death and as a custom to make a new king, whoever next will pass under the arch will be able to choose the next king. As a result, the melon was given the throne and the town lived happily ever after.
The Tale Of The Melon City
In the city of which I sing There was a just and placid King. The King proclaimed an arch should be Constructed, that triumphally Would span the major thoroughfare To edify spectators there.
- Just- based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair
- Placid- calm
- Proclaimed- announce officially or publicly.
- Arch- a curved symmetrical structure spanning an opening and typically supporting the weight of a bridge, roof, or wall above it.
- Triumphally- Celebrating or commemorating a victory
- Span- Celebrating or commemorating a victory
- Thoroughfare- the main road in a town
- Edify- instruct or improve (someone) morally or intellectually
- Spectators- onlookers
The poet was talking about the city which was under the rule of a just and placid king. He was well known for his fair and calm decisions. One day, he ordered his men to build an arch on the main road. He felt it would look good and spectators will look at that arch.
The workmen went and built the thing. They did so since he was the King. The King rode down the thoroughfare To edify spectators there. Under the arch, he lost his crown. The arch was built too low. A frown Appeared upon his placid face. The King said, ‘This is a disgrace. The chief of builders will be hanged.’ The rope and gallows were arranged.
- Frown- a facial expression indicating disapproval, displeasure, or concentration, characterized by a furrowing of one’s brows.
- Gallows- a structure, typically of two uprights and a crosspiece, for the hanging of criminals
The workmen followed his orders and built that arch. When it got ready the king went to see and to his surprise, his crown fell hitting the low-built arch. The king got angry as the crown fell and it was a disgrace for him. So his expressions got changed and his mood got spoiled. He ordered for the chief builders to be hanged till death. To fulfill their majesty’s orders the ropes and gallows were arranged.
The chief of builders was led out. He passed the King. He gave a shout, ‘O King, it was the workmen’s fault’ ‘Oh!’ said the King, and called a halt To the proceedings. Being just (And placider now) he said, ‘I must Have all the workmen hanged instead.’ The workmen looked surprised, and said, ‘O King, you do not realise The bricks were made of the wrong size.’
- Halt- bring or come to an abrupt stop
They brought the chief builders to the king. The chief builders on seeing the frowning and expressions on the king’s face, all shouted and blamed the workmen. When the workmen were called they said that they were not at fault and said that the bricks were not of the right size.
‘Summon the masons!’ said the King. The masons stood there quivering. ‘It was the architect...’, they said, The architect was summoned.
- Summon- order someone to be present
- Masons- a person skilled in cutting, dressing, and laying a stone in buildings
- Quivering- trembling or shaking with a slight rapid motion
- Architect- a person who designs buildings and in many cases also supervises their construction
When they all got to know that the bricks were of the wrong size, the king sent for the mason. The mason was scared to the brim and blamed the architects. Hence, the architects were called by the king.
Well, architect,’ said His Majesty. ‘I do ordain that you shall be Hanged.’ Said the architect, ‘O King, You have forgotten one small thing. You made certain amendments to The plans when I showed them to you.’ The King heard this. The King saw red. In fact, he nearly lost his head; But being a just and placid King He said, ‘This is a tricky thing. I need some counsel. Bring to me The wisest man in this country.’
- Ordain- order (something) officially
- Amendments- a minor change or addition designed to improve something
- Saw red- became angry
- Counsel- advice, especially that given formally
The king told the architects that they all are at fault for building this low arch dome. The architect exclaimed and told that the main culprit was the king himself and he should be hanged to this blame. The king then called for the wisest man in the city.
The wisest man was found and brought, Nay, carried, to the Royal Court. He could not walk and could not see, So old (and therefore wise) was he — But in a quavering voice, he said, ‘The culprit must be punished. Truly, the arch it was that banged The crown off, and it must be hanged’
- Quavering- shake or tremble in speaking, typically through nervousness or emotion.
They all found the wisest man in the city and he was brought in front of the king in the royal court. He was too old to walk and see properly. With his age, he concluded that the arch should be hanged till death as the main culprit seems to be the arch.
To the scaffold, the arch was led When suddenly a Councillor said — ‘How can we hang so shamefully What touched your head, Your Majesty?’ ‘True,’ mused the King. By now the crowd, Restless, was muttering aloud. The King perceived their mood and trembled And said to all who were assembled — ‘Let us postpone consideration Of finer points like guilt. The nation Wants a hanging. Hanged must be Someone, and that immediately.’
- Scaffold- a raised wooden platform used formerly for the public execution of criminals.
- Mused- say to oneself in a thoughtful manner
After listening to what the wise man said, they all get ready to punish the concrete arch. One of the ministers exclaimed that it would not look good that anyone would touch the head of the majesty. The king along with other royal members found it to be disgraceful. So, they all decided to postpone the decision of hanging. The people were being helpless and in a state of confusion. They all decided that they all want the guilty to be hanged, so they need to wait for the culprit to be found.
The noose was set up somewhat high. Each man was measured by and by. But only one man was so tall He fitted. One man. That was all. He was the King. His Majesty Was therefore hanged by Royal Decree.
- Noose- a loop with a running knot, tightening as the rope or wire is pulled and used to trap animals or hang people
- Decree- an official order that has the force of law
They prepared a noose and the noosed when fit to someone would be hanged and he or she would be the culprit. The noose was set up very high and the tall man only could reach there. That tall man and their culprit were found to be the king himself. They all prepared and finally, the king got hanged till death.
Thank Goodness we found someone,’ said The Ministers, ‘for if instead We had not, the unruly town Might well have turned against the Crown.’ ‘Long live the King!’ the Ministers said. ‘Long live the King! The King is dead.’
- Unruly- disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control
- Against the Crown- questioning the power, integrity, and honesty of the state
The ministers of the royal court heaved a sigh of relief as they have done their job. They know that if they had not found the guilty, the people would have reservations about their power. It was very ironic that they all said ‘long live the king’. They wanted that the king should li=ve for long and the king was dead in charge of the low-built arch.
They pondered the dilemma; then, Being practical-minded men, Sent out the heralds to proclaim (In His [former] Majesty’s name): ‘The next to pass the City Gate Will choose the ruler of our state, As is our custom. This will be Enforced with due ceremony.’
- Pondered- think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion
- Heralds- an official employed to oversee state ceremonial, precedence, and the use of armorial bearings, and (historically) to make proclamations, carry official messages, and oversee tournaments
- Proclaim- announce officially or publicly
Now, the question arises in their mind about how to choose the new ruler. As they were reasonable, so they sent out messengers to declare that the one who passes under the arch first will choose the next ruler.
A man passed by the City Gate. An idiot. The guards cried, ‘Wait! Who is to be the King? Decide!’ ‘A melon,’ the idiot replied. This was his standard answer to All questions. (He liked melons.) ‘You Are now our King,’ the Ministers said, Crowning a melon. Then they led (Carried) the Melon to the throne And reverently set it down.
- Reverently- with deep and solemn respect
The next who passed the city gate was no one but an idiot. The guards stopped him and asked the name of the next ruler. To this, he replied a melon. They did not even think about it further and said the same in the royal court. The man loved melons so he suggested that only. The ministers do not pay any heed to this fact and they crowned the melon as their new king.
This happened years and years ago. When now you ask the people, ‘So — Your King appears to be a melon. How did this happen?’, they say, ‘Well, on Account of customary choice. If His Majesty rejoice In being a melon, that’s OK With us, for who are we to say What he should be as long as he Leaves us in Peace and Liberty?’ The principles of laissez faire Seems to be well-established there.
- Customary- according to the customs or usual practices associated with a particular society, place, or set of circumstances
- Rejoice- feel or show great joy or delight
- Laissez-faire- the policy of leaving things to take their own course, without interfering
Now the melon has become the king and when anyone asks about how all this happened, they all replied that it was a customary choice. Their regulations and rules pushed them to do so. But, now they all are happy and lived accordingly without any restrictions and interference.
The Tale Of The Melon City Extra Questions
Q1.What do the words ‘just and placid’ imply?
The phrase implied that the king was calm and composed and able to ensure justice to his people. He rarely showed disappointment and even if was angry at someone or something he quickly hid his anger and was calm and placid.
Q2. Where did the king want the arch constructed? Why?
The king wanted the arch to be built and it should be erected over the main city road. So that the onlookers could adorn the city.
Q3. What happened to the king as he rode down the road?
After the arch was built, the king wanted to check and so he rode through the street. As soon as he tried to go under the arch his crown fell after hitting with the low built arch. The king felt disgraced at this moment and lost his temper.
Q 4. What order did the king give when his crown was knocked off his head?
The king was angry because his crown fell as tried to go under the arch. He ordered the chief builders to be executed.
Q5. Whom did the architect lay the blame on?
The masons blamed the architect for the low-built arch. The architect then in turn passed on the blame on the king and said that he was the one who gave this type of order.
Q6. How did the king react to the architect’s accusation? Why did he react that way?
When the king heard all the accusations the king was so angry and since he was just and a placid king he wanted to find out the culprit. So, he sent his messengers to find out the wisest man.
Q7. How was the wise man brought to court? What advice did he offer?
The wisest man was too old to walk and see properly and when he was called in the royal court, he told that all the fault is with the arch and it is to be hanged till death.
Q8. The arch was not punished in the end. Why?
The wise declared the arch guilty and it must be hanged till death. To this advice, one of the ministers exclaimed that how could an arch touch, majesty’s head. So this idea of hanging the arch till death was denied by all of them.
The poem The Tale Of The Melon City by Vikram Seth revolves around the idea that wrong rules and regulations can spoil the whole scenario sometimes. We have explained the poem stanza-wise and its meanings and extra questions to help the students understand the gist of the poem.