English Lit Place Cluster: Cold Knap Lake

Notes on Gillian Clarke's "Cold Knap Lake".

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  • Created by: Emma Jay
  • Created on: 25-05-12 11:06
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Cold Knap Lake ­ Gillian Clarke
Poet's childhood memory of a child almost drowning
Her mother is heroic as she saved her life
Questions reliability of her memory as some parts are ambiguous and unclear
Historical/Social Context:
"Blue-lipped and dressed in water's long green silk" ­echoes the coldness of the lake and
seems as if dressed up for a funeral. Ominous nature, it sounds as if she is wearing a beautiful
gown, but is entangled in the weeds.
"Red head bowed" ­heroic and like a fairytale. Like she is praying, links to semantic field of
religious vocabulary, religious theme is suggested
"Bleating and rosy" ­suggests a vulnerable lamb, relates to religion, mother is her saviour
"shadowy under the dipped fingers of willows" ­lake is a metaphor for the obscure nature of
her memory, some events have been lost, questioning reliability of her mind
Semantic field ­religion. Suggests the event was miraculous and her mother was the girl's
Alliteration ­"Drawn by the dread". Adds to doom-laden atmosphere, increases tension and
Metaphor ­entire last stanza. Meandering long sentence suggests that lake is a metaphor for
her memory. Some things are obscured and forgotten, but others are foregrounded.
Rhetorical question ­"Was I there?" Signals epiphany and realisation about unreliable nature
of her memory.
Personal Response:
I find the phrase "thrashed for almost drowning" effective as it disturbs the reader from the
fairytale impression as reality intrudes. The fact that this intrusion is so sudden makes me
wonder if Clarke's memory is reliable.
I also find the monosyllabic phrase "she lay for dead" intriguing as it is very simple and
non-descriptive, contributing to the solemn tone. It also contrasts with the last stanza, which

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This short sentence seems
quite reliable as it is so blunt, but is later brought into disarray by the elusiveness of the
poet's memory
The poem has no regular rhyme scheme and does not have a regular rhythm.…read more


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