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Tugging at heartstrings

Posted by SR on May 07, 2004

The child's plight just 'tugged at my heartstrings.'
Why "heartstrings?" Any idea of the origin? Is the heart here synonomous with a musical instrument? If so, why 'tugged' and not 'plucked' or 'played?' I play a few stringed instruments but have never 'tugged' at the strings.