The Tale of Melon City by Vikram Seth is a humorous poem about a king who is just opposite the terms ‘just and placid’. Rather the king is excited about everything in his kingdom.
The poem is about one hasty decision of king that costs him his life. He orders to build an arch from where he can instruct the spectators. Well, the construction of the arch goes awry, as when the king stands, the arch being built too low, it touches the crown and as a result it falls down. Falling of the crown is a matter of insult for the king, thus he orders to hang the chief of the builders. Noose and gallows are prepared. The crowd is ready to witness the convict go lifeless. But just in time the chief of builder blames the workmen for fault. Next the workmen are taken to the death penalty; they too cry aloud saying that this is the mistake of a mason. The mason is then put next for the death punishment; well he passes the blame on the architecture. Well, the architecture being a clever guy says that the amendments in the plan were made by the king itself. This incident puts the king in a dilemma – he says that the situation is tricky.
The king calls for the wisest man in the country for a decision. An overly old man is brought for the decision. The old man can neither walk nor see but he says that the culprit must be hanged. So according to his judgment, the arch is made to hang. But it had touched the crown of the king thus it too was spared from being hanged. On the other hand, the crowd is going berserk. They want to see someone being hanged.
The king then decides that whosoever fits the noose will be hanged. One by one all men are measured; the only tall man that fits the noose is king. Thus, the king is hanged. The king is dead because of his own foolishness.
What who is going to be the next king of the kingdom? As a custom, the first man passing the City Gate will decide who can be the next king. An idiot comes out as a passer-by. When asked he replies melon – melon is his standard reply to all questions. A melon is crowned and declared as the king of the kingdom. A melon will rule over men – what a funny proposition is this.