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. 

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


Sparky Cuddlekins's picture
Sparky Cuddlekins 19 January, 2013 - 14:24

I enjoyed this poem....It was like a kind of beautiful sadness going all over my heart as I went through the lines. It made me think for a while when the poet says "All lost things lie under closing water.." in the end. I think that's the main idea of the poem,being lost and not having anyone beside you. Like the little girl for whom people cared about only when she was about to die. But at least she did not lie under the closing water.I wonder if everybody would have that chance....

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Demy's picture
Demy 6 January, 2013 - 15:28

I like this poem...It is very lovely...It is made ​​me thoughtful...
I want to quote the words of the writer.I think that one can hardly say it better:
"It is about the limitless way the mind takes in events and stories, laying down all that the mind encounters, enriching memory and imagination. It shows the importance of stories, nursery rhymes, poetry, pictures, alongside real events, in making us richly human. It is the picture of a human mind as made by the child in each of us. The lake, and the 'closing water', is memory."
I completely agree with this statement and I think that such poems should be more...

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