John Milton coined this phrase for the first time in his masque “Comus.” It reads as, “Turn forth her silver lining on the night, And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.” Following Milton, it again appeared in The Dublin Magazine, Volume-1 in 1840. From then to onward, silver lining and clouds are always referred as John Milton’s clouds, and they have become proverbial expressions.
This phrase is a metaphorical expression, implying that every situation has some good or positive aspects. In fact, when clouds used to appear in the United Kingdom in the remote past, it was considered that there would be a long rainy season that used to be highly troublesome. However, there was always a silver lining of a cloud when the sky was going to clear. This shows that the phrase was perhaps coined to show that a silver lining is a symbol of no more troubles.
Now this phrase is widely used in every walk of life. It is used to show others that they can benefit from every negative or bad situation that they may encounter in life. For instance, a commander encourages his soldiers when defeat is eminent. A businessman encourages his executives when there is a loss in business saying, you should not despair because every cloud has a silver lining. A political leader can use this in his speeches to motivate his low-spirited workers.
The first time John Milton used the phrase “silver lining” in his poem “Comus” is given below:
“I see ye visibly, and now believe
That he, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistering guardian, if need were
To keep my life and honour unassailed.
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err; there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.”
(Camus, Lines 215-225)
In the above lines, the poet shows that, in every adverse situation, there is also an element of hope and goodness.
This is a very significant phrase in literature. It shows the stretch of imagination of a poet, or a writer, about how far he can go in his thinking. The main theme is that, like every cloud, which has some good linings, there is always a positive aspect of a misfortune. Therefore, never lose hope despite having any difficulty. It simply explains the idea that a cloud blocks out the light of the sun, which is happiness; however, its hidden silver lining sees some good out of it. In fact, in symbolic terms, it is a sort of reassurance to those people who are going through difficulties or tough times. It is to assure them that even from the worst situation, something good will come.
- Metaphor: Silver lining is used as a metaphor for optimism, and cloud is a metaphor for difficulty and sadness.