Cold Knap Lake is a poem by Gillian Clarke, a poet from Wales. The poem is based on a real memory from her childhood. 

Cold Knap Lake

by Gillian Clarke

We once watched a crowd
pull a drowned child from the lake.
Blue lipped and dressed in water’s long green silk
she lay for dead.

Then kneeling on the earth,
a heroine, her red head bowed,
her wartime cotton frock soaked,
my mother gave a stranger’s child her breath.
The crowd stood silent,
drawn by the dread of it.

The child breathed, bleating
and rosy in my mother’s hands.
My father took her home to a poor house
and watched her thrashed for almost drowning.

Was I there?
Or is that troubled surface something else
shadowy under the dipped fingers of willows
where satiny mud blooms in cloudiness
after the treading, heavy webs of swans
as their wings beat and whistle on the air?

All lost things lie under closing water
in that lake with the poor man’s daughter.

This poem was selected as part of the BritLit project. To find out more about BritLit visit our TeachingEnglish site. 


Did you like reading Cold Knap Lake? How did it make you feel?

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Kseniya's picture
Kseniya 6 July, 2015 - 11:34

I like this poem very much. It affected me its sadness. Great sadness. I think, nowadays there is only a few people, who can help unknown person, and relative, too. So that , the poem learns us to take care about people, to be kind and sensitive.

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vishelepova's picture
vishelepova 3 March, 2015 - 18:32

A marvellous poem as it shows life as it is. While reading this poem I understood that there are good people in this world but no many of them can help and support you when you need it. I see the heroine (I mean the mother who saved the girl) as an angel.

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hayaalhams's picture
hayaalhams 19 June, 2013 - 08:50

yes i like it .. it makes me to think & imagin of what happen .. it is very intresting

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hasi2002's picture
hasi2002 15 June, 2013 - 14:11

This poem is very beautiful. I like this poem very's make me to think about lot of things.

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RehinaParker's picture
RehinaParker 3 March, 2013 - 13:09

its a beautiful poem...its lonely... when i read it ,it makes me think about a lot of things...

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