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If a Clear Delight Visits You: Marsden Hartley, Modernist Painter and Poet

Sextant.  Marsden Hartley.
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Sextant(c. 1917) by Marsden Hartley. Oil on Panel. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Wayne Stratz

Another photo from my and Stratoz’s trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum, of Marsden Hartley’s Sextant. I knew Hartley’s name, but as as poet, not a painter, from my days of writing poetry and going to school for an MFA.   The sextant reminded me of Stratoz’s drafting tools, many of which came from his father, a draftsman(who learned Autocad in his 60’s so he could keep working), especially the compass.  Both a sextant and a compass have a moveable limb, and can measure angles, though sextants are for navigation, and compasses for drawing, but both are a way of finding our way and knowing the world.  Stratoz made a video of his doodling, which starts with a compass.  His stained glass arose from a desire to take his doodles and incarnate them in glass.   I love watching Stratoz draw, as he spins the paper, and the lines blossom.


Here is a poem by Marsden Hartley, which originally appeared in Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1920.

To C——
By Marsden Hartley
From “Sunlight Persuasions”
IF a clear delight visits you
Of an uncertain afternoon,
When you thought the time
For new delights was over for that day,
Say to yourself, who rule many a lost         5
Moment in this shadowy domain,
Saving it from its dusty grey perdition,
Say to yourself that is a flash
Of lightning from a so affectionate west,
Where the clear sky, that you know, resides.         10
The rainbow has crossed the desert once again.
I took the blade of bliss and notched it
In a roseate place.
It shed a crimson stream—
That was our flush of joy.         15

They will come

In the way they always come,
Swinging gilded fancies round your head.
So it is with surfaces.
They will walk around you         20
Strip branches of their blooms for you—
Young carpets for young ways.
With me it is different.
Stars, when they strike         25
Edge to edge,
Make fierce resplendent fire.
I have lived with bright stone,
Burned like carnelian in the sun,
Myself;         30
Myself seen branches wither.
Carbon is a diamond—
It cuts the very crystal from the globe.
You are so beautiful
To listen.         35



  1. nan says:

    I like that his dad learned CAD so he could keep working – pretty smart. My dad worked up until he passed – 82 years – so even tho he retired at 62, he promptly went out and found another job. Good thing since he worked another 20 years. LOVE the poem and the video – so cool

  2. nan says:

    p.s. I forgot! May I just say WOW on the doodles and drawing? I kept leaning my head over trying to see past his fingers to see what was coming out of his pen… amazing!

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