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142 One finishes The Orphan Train wishing that Hold had done more to locate her study in the context of an ongoing debate over how society should best deal with neglected, abused, destitute children. Holt attributes the declineof placing out largely to the rise of professional social work, which made many older Protestant charitable organizations seem outmoded; the declining demand for farm labour; and a growing demand for babies and very young children to be adopted, not the older children and teenagers that the New York Children's Aid Society had emphasized. In her influential study Protecting Soldiers and Mothers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), Theda Skocpol suggest that attitudes toward child welfare were closely linked to religion (425). Where Protestant (mainly Congregationalist and Presbyterian) child protectors tended to favour foster homes, Skocpol maintains that Catholics tended to support orphanages (despite some placing out efforts), while Jewish social workers stressed government-provided mother's pensions to keep families intact. One wishes that Holt had done even more than she has to analyze the relationship between the decline of placing out and the rise of new forms of public welfare and the expansion of adoption. This, however, is a minor quibble. Scrupulously balanced and meticulously researched, The Orphan Trains is sure to become the standard account of the nineteenth-century placing out movement. Skilfully balancing institutional history with social and cultural history, Holt does a remarkable job of bringing the voices of those who rode the orphan trains westward back to life. Steven Mintz University of Houston Annie Finch, The Ghost of Meter: Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse. University of Michigan Press, 1993. Is there such a thing as an American prosody? The question has puzzled many, particularly poets of a nativist bent like William Carlos Williams, but answers have not been persuasive-largely, I think, because they have been sought in some kind of mystique about the "American language." Gay Wilson Allen's study American Prosody (New York: American Book Company, 1935), sidestepping the question, simply offers descriptions of prosody in selected American poets. Edwin Fussell ventures more daring speculation in BookRevieu.1s 143 hisLuciferin Harness(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), but until Finch's book, no one, I think, has contributed significantly to the conversation . [Stephen Cushman's superb Fictions o/ Form in American Poetry (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993) advances the thesis that, while American poets tend to despise inherited forms, they conversely tend to overvalue the formal elements of their poetry.] Annie Finch's The Ghost o(Meter has the merit of seeking answers in the nght place: American cultural attitudes that we have long recognized. American poets resist the domination of iambic pentameter, she notes, becauseit is the dominant mode of English poets. This tendency appears not only in Whitman's free verse and its progeny, but in the irregular quatrains of Emily Dickinson, as well as in later poets. Her study pits iambic pentameteragainst a phenomenon that she names-perplexingly-"dactylic" meter, a blanket term that covers a variety of trisyllabic and "falling" meters that oppose the tyrannous pentameter of English poetry. On this point, Finch suffers some conceptual and terminological confusions, and she misses some obvious opportunities, but essentially she is on the right track. For this is more a poet's than a scholar's book: there is nothing of the scientific apparatus imported from linguistics to shore up the scansions; it is not loaded down with theoretical polemics or exhaustive analyses or tables of statistics. As a book on prosody, it is remarkably pleasant to read. Amid much that may prove misleading to the unwary, there are moments of sharp insight here, as well as a sketched out strategy for an answer to my initial question. In ten compact pages, Finch outlines three general approaches to the meaning of meter: the classical theory of decorum, the iconic theory of onomatopoeia (sound must seem an echo to the sense), and the theory of the "metrical frame," condensed from the work of John Hollander-the understanding of meter as a convention that situates a poem in relation to the prior metrical tradition. Finch's strategy is to adopt the frame theory as...


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pp. 142-145
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