Jack’s Naughty Bits: The Arabian Nights

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Jack's Naughty Bits

In the days before the Em and Lo Down gave NerveCenter members all the advice they could handle and Lisa Carver wasn’t yet telling print magazine readers what to do (cf. The Advice Lady), pragmatic life tips were kind of hard to come by on Nerve. And yet every blue moon or so in my lusty wanderings among the deepest darkest library stacks I would stumble upon a poem or snippet from the classics that could be readily applied to life’s tough situations. In various columns, I have argued that Rabelais gives good advice for keeping your partner faithful, that flirting lessons can be learned from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, that Goethe shows you how to balance ambition and eros and that Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” was a more convincing version of “Let’s Get It On” than even Marvin Gaye’s. Who’s to say that High Art and Self-Help have to be at opposite ends of the shelf?


This week’s excerpt has it both ways. Taken from one of the crown jewels of the Arabic tradition, the incomparable Arabian Nights, it provides a useful stratagem for convincing your lover to let you take the road less traveled. Few people read Scheherazade’s tale in its entirety; most often because it comes in expurgated editions, bowdlerized by its translators and editors. Not so in Sir Richard Burton’s original, nineteenth-century rendition, which is as licentious and brilliant as Burton himself. The great British ambassador, who spent much of his life sampling the pleasures, peculiarities and perversions of Arabic cultures, was a superman if there ever was one. He spoke twenty-three languages, was the first English translator of the Kama Sutra, The Arabian Nights and countless other Eastern classics and lived a life of highest adventure and eroticism. Like the anthropologist Tobias Schneebaum, Burton made no separation between sexual and cultural exploration. As a result, he probably achieved as great a synthesis of learning and loving as anyone in history. I modified his translation a bit to remove some obscurities and infelicities, but what remains is a rhetoric for encouraging what’s sometimes called The Catholic Girl’s Compromise. Who would have guessed at the incidental benefits of population control?


From The Arabian Nights

translated by Sir Richard Burton

“My soul thy sacrifice! I choose thee out

Who are not menstrous or oviparous:

Should I with women mell, I’d beget

Brats till the wide world grew straight for us.

“She respondeth (sore hurt in sense most acute

For she had proffered what did not besuit):

“Unless thou stroke as man should swive his dear,

Blame me not when horns on thy brow appear.

Thy wand seems waxen, to a limpness grown,

And more I palm it, softer grows the clown!

“And I to her: “If thy coynte I do reject

There might be elsewhere we could connect.

“And yet, she showed again her tender coynte,

And I was forced to cry: “I will not roger thee!

“She drew back saying, “From the faith

He turns, who’s turned by Heaven’s decree!

And front-wise futters, both night and day,

Most times in ceaseless persistency.”

Then swung she the round and shining rump

Like silvern lump she showed me.

I cried: “Well done, O mistress mine!

No more am I in pain for thee!

O thou of all that Allah oped

Showest me fairest victory!”

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Jack Murnighan‘s stories appeared in the Best American Erotica editions of 1999, 2000 and 2001. His weekly column for Nerve, Jack’s Naughty Bits, was collected and released as two books. He was the editor-in-chief of Nerve from 1999 to 2001, before retiring to write full time and take seriously the quest for love.

Introduction ©2000 Jack Murnighan and, Inc.