Online ISSN: 2221-7886

Volume 1, Number 1 (2010)
"Ballad of the Downfall of the Fish-House" (Anonymous): A Forensic Approach to Finding the Author and Meaning from History and Critical Discourse Analysis
Renee Figuera
In this essay, I argue that Edward Lanza Joseph is the author of "Ballad of the Downfall of the Fish House," also referred to as "Ballad," since Joseph wrote periodically in the Port of Spain Gazette between circa 1832 to 1838, and was the Editor of the same newspaper for eight months in 1838 (Joseph [1838] 2001, xxiii). Edward Lanza Joseph is already known for the dramatic farces Martial Law and Outlaw Slave, circa 1832; the historical novel, Warner Arundell, 1838; the historical sketch, “Maroon Party,” 1835, and his historiographic publication, History of Trinidad, 1838. However, recovering poetic works by E. L. Joseph has proven more difficult since many of his poems were published anonymously. For this reason, I use historical sociopragmatic evidence to prove that Joseph did write the anonymous poem, "Ballad of the Downfall of the Fish-House."
Published under the pseudonym "Robbing-Hood," in 1836, "Ballad" evokes the activities of the thirteenth century figure, Robin Hood, who allegedly championed the cause of the poor, and fought against corrupt officials and the oppressive system that protected them. The pun on the writer's nom de plume also suggests a satirical attack on the Port of Spain municipal executive (the Cabildo) for the downfall of an existing "Fish House" at the St. Vincent Jetty, King's Wharf, Port of Spain. The Cabildo, mentioned in the poem, had responsibility for many municipal matters (including supervising markets, appointing city magistrates, scavenging and repairing streets, price fixing, controlling the police, controlling the Royal Gaol, admitting physicians and surgeons, and levying duties and taxes) first under Spanish rule, and then under British rule up to
Fraser's History of Trinidad, Volume II, records that "Ballad" was published in the Trinidad Gazette, a bi-weekly newspaper, re-named as the Port of Spain Gazette, after 1825. However, it is not possible to verify the original publication of "Ballad" in the Port of Spain Gazette of November 1836, as ruthless collectors seem to have removed vital parts of the
newspaper of that year.