Goat’s Tail

Mekatokaku meka toka mekaku toka,
Meka tokaa meka? toka meka
Mekatokaku meka toka mekaku toka,
Meka tokaa? meka toka meka
Mekatokaku meka toka mekaku toka,
Meka tokaa meka? toka meka
Mekatokaku meka toka mekaku toka,
Meka tokaa? meka toka meka

Meka tokatoka mekameka meka toka
Meka tokatoka mekameka meka toka
Meka tokatoka mekameka meka toka
Meka tokatoka mekameka meka toka.

 

“Goat’s Tail” is a musical adaptation by Michael Heyman and Regie Gibson of a 16th-century text written by Tenali Ramalinga. A jester and poet in the court of South Indian emperor Krishnadeva Raya, Ramalinga is said to have composed the poem in response to a challenge from a little-known visiting poet. The visitor asked Ramalinga to interpret his poem, but, to answer such impudence, Ramalinga proposed that the visitor interpret Ramalinga’s own poem first. The impromptu poem he recited (in Telugu) does nothing but play on the words meka (goat) and toka (tail). The visitor was so afraid to enter into a debate with a poet of Ramalinga’s caliber that he chose to concede victory to him and the formidable “sense” of nonsense.

 

An English translation of Ramalinga’s poem made by Elchuri Muralidhara Rao was published in The Tenth Rasa: An Anthology of Indian Nonsense (Penguin 2007). Its bedeviling first lines appear as follows:

To a goat’s tail the goat is the tail, O Goat and O Tail,
Can a goat’s tail be the tail of a goat?
To a goat’s tail the goat’s tail is the tail of a goat,
Can a goat be the tail? O Goat, is tail a goat?

 

 

 

3 Responses to “Goat’s Tail”

  1. rsgrao

    Dr Elchuri Muralidhara rao ‘s has done a commendable translation of the original poem. Though the job seems to be deceptively simple, in reality it’s not so as the fun loving original poet plays with telugu words and sounds creating such a bewildering magical Web that an ordinary reader can’t make head or tail of the poem.

  2. Elchuri Muralidhara Rao

    Thanks to Michael Heyman Sir for the Article and to Regie O’Hare Gibson Sir for his lovely rendering.

    Here is a link to a traditional rendering of the verse from the Telugu film Tenali Ramakrishna (1952):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7_zpapZv9M

    Reagrds,
    Elchuri Muralidhara Rao

  3. Ram S Nalandula

    A fine verbal calisthenics by the celebrated courtier

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