Aretino wrote his Sonetti Lussoriosi in the late 1520s to accompany a series
of erotic paintings that he had discovered. Even without seeing the oils, it’s not hard
to imagine what they depicted. The sonnets are joyous and playful dialogues between lovers,
shifting voices (and often positions) even within single lines. Aretino knew he was doing
something a little different in Italian letters, as he points out in the prologue to Book Two of
the Sonetti: “This book is not composed of sonnets, / Nor of chapters, eclogues or songs;
/ Instead, you’ll find . . . people both fucking and fucked-out / Cocks and cunts innumerable; /
And many souls lost in the black holes of asses.” His little book proved to be the first erotica
published with the printing press in Europe, and has been reprinted dozens of times since — and
for good reason.
Aretino’s sonnets are marked not only for their ribald wit and consistent polymorphous perversion.* * *
Aretino and his partner draw the full range of loves into their compass. Despite what we might think of women’s expressions of sexuality in ages before ours, Aretino’s partner is no less
enthusiastic than he, and theirs is a model of balanced gender and sexual relations. Like Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, the woman in Aretino’s sonnets is an outspoken sexual predator. Both characters, however, were written by men, which leads one to wonder: Are these women male fantasies, or proto-feminist calls for women to embrace their own sexuality? I’d say a little of both.
From the Sonetti Lussoriosi by Pietro Aretino
translated by Jack Murnighan
IV (first book)
Throw your leg up on my shoulder, baby,
And take my cock up in your hand,
And when you want me to push hard or soft,
Whether hard or soft, just dance your ass upon the bed.
And if my cock moves from cunt to ass,
You can call me a rake or a backalley villain;
But I know your lips and I know your holes,
As any good horse knows his mate.
I’ll never take my hand from your cock —
Not I, who would never call this way crazy,
And if you don’t like it, Vaya con Dios!
They say the pleasure behind belongs to you,
And the pleasure in front is made for me,
So just do it right, or I’ll make you take a hike!
Rest assured: I would never leave,
Dear woman, from such a sweet assfuck,
Not if it would save the King of France.
XIV (first book)
Give me your tongue, with my feet against the wall,
Tighten my thighs — yes, tight tight together;
Let it go back and forth here in this bed
Where I haven’t a care but to be fucked.
Ah, traitor! But my how your cock is hard!
Oh, don’t worry! I’ll make you whole in my hole;
And one day, you can have me in the other, I promise,
And I vouch I’ll leave you a happy man.
I thank you, dearest Lorenzina,
I’ll push myself to serve you, but you push too
Push like little Ciabattina knew how to do it.
Come on, come on; I’m pushing, when will you?
Now, I’ll do it now! Just give me all that little tonguelet
So I might die. And I, who thirst so for you,
How will you bring me to my conclusion?
Now, now I’m doing it, my good good Lord.
Oh! And now it’s done. And I . . . Oh me! O God!
II (second book)
Madame, your malady is in the lungs;
The remedy is at hand, if you want it.
Lift your thighs a bit higher
To receive in your ass the good medicine.
This works better than waters to the chest,
Dear lady, of this I assure you.
But Sir, if this you want me to believe,
Don’t make me wait any longer for my cure.
And voila’, my asshole. Oh my! What are you doing?
That’s a different shaped hole that you’re wrecking;
It’s not my pussy you’re giving it to there!
Slowly, slow — it’s stuffing me to the brim!
But woman, perhaps I should tell you the truth.
That my tool is so enormous
It’ll take the cough right out of your lungs.
Good sir, of my eventual cure I can only hope,
Just don’t stop treating me anytime soon.
The original Italian version