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English Literature

Gillian Clarke: Cold Knap Lake

Form and structure

The poem has a mainly regular pattern: the stanzas [stanza: A group of lines of poetry that make up a unit - like a paragraph in a piece of prose; a verse. ] consist alternately of 4 lines and 6 lines, although the lines are of varying lengths. It ends with a rhyming couplet [rhyming couplet: a pair of lines of poetry that rhyme and have the same length and metric pattern. ].

Perhaps Clarke chose this structure because, in a way, it reflects what the poem suggests about memory - the main points are fixed but the details are looser.

The fourth stanza contains one very long, sprawling sentence, broken over several line-ends: it's hard to grasp exactly what is being said, beyond the impressions of shadowy willows, murky water, and low-flying swans. This lends an obscure, dream-like feeling to the description.

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