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Minute Particulars

Vol. 57 no. 4: Spring 2024

Construing “Har”: Blake’s Polyglot Roots

4 April 2024
25 Apr. 2024


Of those commentators who try to explain the name of the senescent patriarch Har in Blake’s early (unpublished) illustrated poem Tiriel (late 1780s), most offer that “har” is the Hebrew word for “mountain,” as Blake could have learned from any number of etymological discussions of such familiar biblical names as “Ararat” or “Armageddon.” Some scholars note that Har is also the name of an ambiguously identified frame character in Snorri Sturlusun’s prose Edda, which Blake knew through Paul Henri Mallet’s Northern Antiquities, but even these emphasize “mountain” in construing the name, perhaps because there does not seem to be much connection between Blake’s character and his Scandinavian namesake. In Tiriel Har presides feebly (an aged Adam with his equally feeble consort Heva) over a paradise that resembles a pickled Garden of Eden, and his territory is bordered by the “mountains of Har” (E 284), but he is much more closely associated with the garden than the mountains.