Jack’s Naughty Bits: Thibaut de Champagne, Une Chose, Baudo

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Jack's Naughty Bits

This week’s Naughty Bit, a twelfth-century French poem by Thibaut de Champagne, asks an important and difficult question: When alighting on your beloved’s doorstep, what should you kiss first, her lips or her feet? Though the question seems a little dated by the last eight hundred years of sexual relations, the issue of how best to express devotion is not yet cut and dried. Devotion is a dicey thing, different women require different kinds of signs, and anybody who wants a fast and steady rule might as well stay home memorizing it; it ain’t gonna be worth much in the real world.


For a long time, I was obsessed with a not dissimilar question: Which should you kiss first, a woman’s breasts or between her legs? Now conventional wisdom tells you that one kisses the breasts before — in Monty Python’s fine phrasing — “stampeding toward the clitoris.” But it was precisely that conventionality that irritated me, back in those years when I thought the bedroom a fine site for personal politics. So I made it my one-man mission to invert the conventional kissing narrative and refuse to kiss the breasts before crossing the Mason-Dixon. This form of political resistance met with no small confusion from the women so implicated, you can be sure. As we were all in college, my partners were a bit too young to know to say something along the lines of, Son, what in the bejesus are you up to muff-diving me before you give my sweet rack the slightest consideration? But that’s really what I needed to hear. Because, and I say this to would-be iconoclasts everywhere, sexual conventions evolved that way for a reason. As most people know, a bit of prepping goes a long way, and gentle/rough breast attention — however anticipated — is still welcomed by most women. While I thought that my partners would think of me as a truly independent-minded lover, unfettered by everyone else’s precedents, Lewis-and-Clarking my way up the proverbial flood, no, they just thought I was a twit who didn’t know what the hell he was doing. And they were right.

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“Une Chose, Baudoÿ” by Thibaut de Champagne

Translated by Jack Murnighan

One thing I want to ask you, Baudoin:

If a true, loyal lover

Who has loved his woman a long time

And long prayed that she’d take pity on him

Is written to and told to come to her

In order to finally do what he wishes,

What should he do first to please her

When she says, “Welcome, my love,”

Kiss her on the mouth or the feet?

Sir, I believe that first

One kisses her on the mouth

As such a kiss makes descend

To the heart a sweetness which embodies

The great desire they have for each other.

A joy lights her heart

That no lover can conceal or suppress

So he will thus make himself happy

When he kisses the mouth of his love.

Look, Baudoin, I won’t lie to you,

Whoever wants first to kiss his woman

On the mouth does not love from the heart —

For that is how you’d kiss a shepherd’s daughter.

I think it better to kiss her feet and thank her

Than to do something so outrageous.

You have to believe your lady is wise,

And good sense tells us that humility

Will help to make you better loved.

But sir, I’ve heard many times that

Humility helps the lover along,

But when the lover — through humility —

Is enough advanced that she gives him his reward,

And he has what he loves and holds dear,

Then I’d say he’d be foolish

Not to pay his homage on her mouth,

For I have also heard, and you know well,

To bypass the mouth for the feet is a bit precious.

Baudoin, look, I’m not saying

That one should neglect the mouth for the feet,

Only that I want to kiss her feet right away

And then, when I’m ready, I’ll kiss her mouth

And her beautiful body, which should never be in the dark,

And her beautiful eyes and face

And her blond head, next to which spun gold is nothing.

But you are brash and mix everything up;

It’s pretty clear you know little of love.

Sir, you’d have to be both cowardly and lax

Having been allowed to kiss and enjoy

The sweet solace of a long, plump body

To remain nonchalant near the mouth’s sweetness

In order to kiss the feet; it makes no sense.

God only wants us to do whatever

One must to win a lady’s grace,

And it is a thousand times better to savor

Her mouth than her feet!

Baudoin, whoever keeps up the chase

Until he gets what he wants, errs

If he does not choose to fall at her feet;

I say he’s a devil who does not.

Sir, a man who is bound up in love

Can’t help but forget — given the room

To realize all that he wishes —

All about the feet in favor of the mouth.

© Jack Murnighan