The letter „r“

“On an old shore, the vulgar ocean rolls”
The letter r is frequently indicated as a characteristic mark of vulgarity. “R. is the dog’s letter and hurreth in the sound.” (Ben Jonson, English Grammar, 1640). “R. Young pious RUTH / Left all for Truth.” (New England Primer, 1691). R is the eighteenth letter of the modern, and seventeenth letter of the ancient Roman alphabet. In general, the character denotes an open-voiced consonant formed when the point of the tongue approaches the palate a little way behind the teeth; in many languages, this is accompanied by a vibration of the tongue, in which case the r is said to be trilled. This trill is almost or altogether absent in the r of modern standard English, which retains its consonantal value only when it proceeds a vowel. In American English, in all words spelled with r, the sound occurs simultaneously with the vowel before it. The vowels in such cases are said to be recolored. “Like rubies reddened by rubies reddening.”

How carefully did Stevens plan the order for the poems 
included in The Rock? I often wonder if the many scattered r letters and sound combinations are there by chance, habit, or plot. “A repetition / In a repetitiousness of men and flies”; “A new knowledge of reality”; “Red-in-red repetitions never going.”

“The river motion, the drowsy motion of the river R.”

/ Susan Howe, The Nation

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