Poem: "Toulouse-Lautrec at the Moulin Rouge" by Jon Stallworthy
A poem inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec's At the Moulin Rouge, 1892/95

Transforming Vision: Writers on Art
Art Institute of Chicago. Transforming Vision: Writers on Art. Art Institute of Chicago, 1994, p. 37.

JON STALLWORTHY On Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, 1892/95

TOULOUSE-LAUTREC AT THE MOULIN ROUGE

‘Cognac—more cognac for Monsieur Lautrec— More cognac for the little gentleman, Monster or clown of the Moulin—quick— Another glass!’
The Can Can
Chorus with their jet net stockings
And their red heads rocking
Have brought their patrons flocking to the floor.
Pince-nez, glancing down from legs advancing
To five fingers dancing
Over a menu-card, scorn and adore
Prostitutes and skinny flirts
Who crossing arms and tossing skirts
High-kick—a quick
Eye captures all before they fall— Quick lines, thick lines
Trace the huge ache under rouge.

‘Cognac—more cognac!’ Only the slop
Of a charwoman pushing her bucket and mop,
And the rattle of chairs on a table top.
The glass can fall no further. Time to stop
The charcoal’s passionate waltzing with the hand.
Time to take up the hat, drag out the sticks,
And very slowly like a hurt crab, stand:
With one wry bow to the vanished band,
Launch out with short steps harder than high kicks
Along the unspeakable inches of the street.
His flesh was his misfortune: but the feet
Of those whose flesh was all their fortune beat
Softly as the grey rain falling
Through his brain recalling
Marie, Annette, Jean-Claude and Marguerite.
(1963)