Music and savage breasts.

Posted on Thursday, January 1st, 2015 at 12:05 pm

William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697  Act 1, Scene 1, opening line, spoken by the character Almeria.

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Music has charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.

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This has been misquoted more times than just about any other phrase in English language history.  (Music soothes the savage beast.)  In my experience, savage beasts run from most music, especially cats when I play my 12 string, sort of a contra-pied piper.  And birds which gather to listen to the competition are hardly savage.

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But what is a savage breast?  In the time it was written, it meant a raging heart or tortured soul.  But today, with mass exploitation of nudity in the media and culture, the meaning is surely much different.  A stereotyped savage breast today would surely be tattooed and pierced.

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Its oxymoron in the literal state is indeed a seed of comedy.  “Beware the savage breast!” is sure to draw at least a snicker from a crowd.  It immediate brings to mind a classic breast with a face, one which is wild and angry, bearing sharp crooked teeth and scraggly facial hair, attempting to bite anything that comes within the ring of personal space.  Following with “A hard time getting to first base” is a sure chuckle.

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Alas, the misquote is better known than the original.  It crops up in all sorts of movies, most of which are poorly written, with no budget for verifying quotes.  Most common is when a musician distracts a raging beast in mortal combat with the movies heroic male lead, turning the tables on what seemed sure death for the hero.  Very cheesy.

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But hey, be careful.  You can never tell when a breast might be savage.  So never slide a hand down into a bra without at least peeking first.  Or at least play some music.

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