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Cold Knap Lake

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by

Duncan Dodsworth

on 16 May 2010

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Transcript of Cold Knap Lake

Cold Knap Lake Content Written by Gillian Clarke Autobiographical Gillian Clarke, as a young girl, watches her mother and some other volunteers pull a drowning girl from a lake. Her mother resuscitates the girl, and her father brings the girl home, where Clarke witnesses the girl getting beaten by her father. In the second half of the poem, Clarke is wondering whether this is actually one of her memories, or merely a story she was told. Themes Unreliability of memory/ False memories
Parent-child relationships, e.g. how children see their parents, how parents react to worrying situations, what their children make them feel/do
Family comparisons
Closeness to her mother Poetic Devices LINE 9 'The crowd stood silent, drawn by the dread of it' - alliteration for emphasis, shows how worried people were about the girl LINE 11 'The child breathed, bleating' - metaphor, like a lamb crying, emphasises how close she came to drowning LINE 6 'a heroine, her read head bowed' - shows her Clarke idolises her mother, sees her as a heroine who does amazing things.
LINE 8 'my mother gave a stranger's child breath' - metaphor, 'gift of life', Clarke sees her as a saviour and amazing. 'Stranger' implies that she recognises she is not just a heroine to her own child, but to everyone else as well. LINE 14 'watched her thrashed for almost drowning' - father is furious at his daughter, maybe abusive but could just have been angry that her peril worried him so much. 'Thrashed' emphasises the violence and seriousness of the act - much more than just a slight smack. Possibly also embarrassed that someone else had to witness this and could've thought he was an incompetent parent. Could have loving or abusive intentions.
LINE 18 'where satiny mud blooms in cloudiness' - metaphor that uses unusual words to describe mud - 'satiny' and 'blooms', mud cannot bloom. It tells us that once you go below the surface of memories, things can become cloudy and hard to remember; memories can become mixed or 'cloudy', distorted and intertwined. Evocative Language LINE 5 'Then, kneeling on the earth' - 'Then' indicates change, an intervention. LINE 21 'All lost things lie under closing water in that lake with the poor man's daughter' - this is a part of the poem that can be interpreted in many ways. 'Closing' could mean the 'water' closing over Clarke's memories; her memory is a 'lost thing'. It could also suggest the water closing over the head of the girl - possibly dead. This is backed up by 'poor man's daughter' -this expresses sympathy for the father. Another view is that 'lost' means the girl is metaphorically lost because of her abusive and perhaps uncaring family (let her go to the lake by herself in the first place). Poem ends with a rhyming couplet. Structure Each stanza focuses on a different aspect or part of the story of the poem:
The first stanza focuses on the girl drowning in the lake.
The second stanza shows her being rescued.
The girl is returned home and beaten in the third stanza.
And finally, in the fourth Clarke struggles with her memories. The last two lines are separate from the rest of the poem to leave the reader to think about the poem and summarise Clarke's thoughts/feelings. Links with other poems 'Digging' by Seamus Heaney - parent-child relationships, how children look up to their parents and are proud of them
'On my first Sonne' by Ben Jonson - contrast - parent being proud of his son, instead of daughter being proud of her mother
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