"The Ballad of the Landlord" was first published in 1940 and is about the exploitation and mistreatment of black tenants by white landlords. At first it might read as a comical poem, but beneath the ostensible comedy, there is a tone of deep frustration, incredulity, and anger.
The first five stanzas are written from the perspective of a black tenant. In the first two stanzas, the tenant complains to his landlord that the property he is paying for is broken and dangerous. The "roof has sprung a leak" and the "steps is broken down."
In the third stanza, the tenant responds with disbelief to the landlord's demand for "Ten Bucks." This disbelief is implied by the two rhetorical questions which begin the stanza which imply that the tenant is surprised that he is being asked for an additional "Ten Bucks" despite the poor condition of the property. The tenant refuses to pay the money until the faults with the property are fixed.
In the fourth and fifth stanzas the...
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