“Was I deceiv’d, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?” John Milton
As far as I can figure, the phrase Silver Lining was first coined by John Milton in Comus, way back in 1634. Turns out, things were pretty rough then, too. A conservative author was tried for being overly critical of the theatre, there was a bit of a dust up in Smolenks and an occasional news items published about climate change (no Murdoch press then obviously).
Milton presented his work at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire as a kind of a curtain raiser or Mask, presented by aristocrats to slightly nobler individuals. The idea was thus; a mask or masque (see what I did there?), saw well-dressed types enter from a scenic setting on a stage into the middle of the hall where they engaged in one or more allegorical dances in a central area. In this instance, the Mask was called Comus. I won’t pretend I read the whole piece; it tends to go on a bit, and I didn’t want to miss Dan Andrew’s presser. But here’s the part I had to share, Comus was the god of festivity, revels and nocturnal dalliance. He was the son and cup bearer of the god Dionysus. Comus represented anarchy and chaos. His festival involved men and women exchanging clothes. He wore a wreath of flowers, loosely carried a torch, and he was usually depicted as a young man on the point of unconsciousness. He certainly gives our festival a nudge if we want to keep up.
To that end, after a year of tracksuit pants and well-worn sneakers, of losing sleep and gaining weight, of imploding with concern and brimming with pride and discovering a sense of intestinal fortitude and perhaps, like Comus, a touch too much libation, we announce with joy and jubilation and a solid cocktail of caution, The Williamstown Literary Festival 2021 theme — Silver Lining.
Come 18 to 20 June 2021, we will return to the majestic Town Hall in Williamstown where well-dressed folk will step from a scenic setting into the middle of the hall and our sable cloud will turn forth her silver lining and celebrate once again our annual winter west festival of words.
Can’t wait to see you live and online.
Stella Kinsella, Program Director, Williamstown Literary Festival