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The meaning and origin of the expression: Music has charms to soothe the savage breast

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Music has charms to soothe the savage breast

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Meaning

Literal meaning. That literal meaning may be misinterpreted somewhat as this phrase is commonly misreported as 'music has (or occasionally 'hath') charms to soothe the savage beast'. In fact, at the time of writing (Nov 2006) there are twice as many listed for the incorrect version of the phrase as for the correct one.

Origin

The phrase was coined by William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697:

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?

See also - hell has no fury like a woman scorned.

See also: the List of Proverbs.