An ancient instrument of torture. The word is now used in a figurative sense to denote the poetic faculty, as in the following fiery lines of our great poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox:
I sit astride Parnassus with my lyre, And pick with care the disobedient wire. That stupid shepherd lolling on his crook With deaf attention scarcely deigns to look. I bide my time, and it shall come at length, When, with a Titan's energy and strength, I'll grab a fistful of the strings, and O, The word shall suffer when I let them go!