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Cold Knap Lake.

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Introduction

Cold Knap Lake This poem is about an incident from the poet's childhood. Cold Knap Lake is a real place near Barry in Glamorgan, South Wales. It is a Bronze Age burial site, and something of a local beauty spot. A little girl is drowned in the lake, or so it seems, but the poet's mother gives her the kiss of life, and her (the poet's) father takes the child home. The girl's parents are poor and beat her as a punishment. At this point, the poet wonders whether she, too, "was...there" and saw this (the beating, rather than the rescue) or not. The poem is inconclusive - the writer sees the incident as one of many things that are lost "under closing water". ...read more.

Middle

The poet notes how her mother's concern is selfless - she gives "her breath" to "a stranger's child". (We can contrast this with the poet's admission of her own coldness to someone else's child in Baby-sitting.) The image also suggests the miracle of creation as related in Genesis (the first book of the Bible), where God gives Adam life, by breathing into his nostrils. Back to top The poet does not condemn, but seems shocked by, the child's being "thrashed for almost drowning". But for all we know, the parents who beat her thought this was the right way to teach their daughter to be more careful. ...read more.

Conclusion

Cold Knap Lake is where these things really happened, but its association with lost history and things being buried and rediscovered later may echo the ideas in the poem. Apart from the extended analogy of the "troubled surface" (which was literally present but also works metaphorically) there are very few metaphors in the poem ("long green silk" and "closing water" - can you find any others?). Back to top * How does Gillian Clarke present memory in this poem? * What do you think of the motif (thematic image) of water in Cold Knap Lake? * How does the poet use images of things that were literally present and metaphors (there are very few) in this poem? * In your own words, explain what you think the poet is saying in the last six-line stanza and the rhyming couplet that follows it. ...read more.

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