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Apollo is the Sun. In the exalted solitude of his journey through the heavens each day, He hears the Harmony of the Spheres: the perfection of proportions in the orbits of the heavenly bodies – the Sun, the Moon, and the planets together resonating an etherial and celestial music never heard by mortals.
Perhaps it was this celestial harmony Apollo remembered when He saw young Hermes strumming on the strings of an instrument the child God had made from the shell of a tortoise. Hermes had stolen some of his cattle and Apollo was very angry, but when the Sun God heard the delicate yet enthralling sounds of Hermes’ lyre, His temper cooled and Apollo allowed Hermes to keep the cattle in exchange for the instrument. Apollo endowed the lyre with His solar power, inventing Music. Through His divine example He inspired men and women to live virtuously, to emulate the Gods, and to create Music and poetry for themselves.
The Lute Part IV
The Lute and the New Humanists
The lute was already well-established as a favorite instrument in Italy by the 14th century (the Trecento). The happy circumstances that led to the rise of the lute as the emblematic and most revered instrument of the European Renaissance can be traced to its being readily on hand for the new humanist philosophers and poets who created the movement.
Already the lute was so familiar that in the early years of the century Dante (1265-1321) had used this simile to describe the counterfeiter Master Adam encountered in the eighth circle of Hell:
Io vidi un, fatto a guisa di lēuto
(I saw one, who would have been shaped like a lute)
~ Inferno XXX, 49
But Petrarch actually played the lute, and equating it with the the lyre of Classical Greece, he imbued the cultural perception of the instrument with a rich symbolism that permeated European art, music, and poetry for centuries.