"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

On the long road, and story, to a silver lining as March ends

"Road to a silver lining," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
The somber gray clouds parted and then departed as the sun rose today. Backlit, the white of their fringes, of their transparency, dazzled, reminding me of the idiom, "Every cloud has a silver lining."
Morning was chilly and damp when we arrived at the grocery store at 7 a.m., to stock up for quarantine days ahead in April. The skies matched our moods and the continual bad news of March.
But then, by 9 a.m., as I was coming home from another errand, it was spring again.
"I wonder if I can paint those silver linings," I thought. We need some silver lining these days.

But of course, the old journalist and English teacher in me had to ask, "Where did that phrase come from?" It was almost as much fun discovering this as painting it. I love learning.
What follows is more than you probably want to know because the more I found out, the more questions arose. But as I've discovered in the past few years, every painting has at least one story behind it, or because of it.
We can thank John Milton for coining the term in a poem he wrote in 1634:
"Was I deceived? or did a sable cloud 
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?"
He wrote Comus (A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle), in honor of chastity. 
First presented on Michaelmas, Sept. 29, 1634, before John Egerton, First Earl of Bridgewater, it was to celebrate  the Earl's new post as Lord President of Wales.
Masques (today we call them "masks")? They were introductions to masked balls for royalty and some nobility. Aristocrats would enter from a stage in the middle of a hall and take part in allegorical dances.
Michaelmas? That's a feast of saints, and archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
The phrase didn't really enter common usage as an idiom until 200 years later in Victorian times. The Dublin Magazine writer Mrs. S. Hall, reviewing the novel Marian with this quote: 
In 1849, another literary review published it as the proverb we know, and usage quickly spread to America: "Every cloud has a silver lining."
So here you have today's watercolor, complete with redbud trees, "The road to a silver lining."

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