Favourite Poems – The Lake

Following my posts about Kubla Khan, Because of You, and Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, this is the fourth (and likely to be penultimate) post about some of my favourite poems. Like Because of You, I suspect that this is poem that is not that well known yet.

I moved to Cardiff in summer 2000 and a popular place to go on walks is around Roath Park Lake. As well as the lake itself, it is also well known for the Scott Memorial (aka Lighthouse), and there are other areas of the park too, stretching down to local sporting fields and a library.

Scott Memorial and Roath Park Lake during a full moon in April 2021

Next to the lake there is a cafe, boathouse, and an observation deck. Upon the railings of the observation is the plaque with both the poem, The Lake by Gary Freeman, and some background about the poem. More information about the story can be found in a story that was published in the South Wales Echo.

Rippled wave with tinselled top

Always make me look and stop.

Sculptured moving work of art

Reflecting nature’s changing chart.

Trees like sentinels surreal

Give the lake a guarded feel.

Overlooking from their height

The waves that glisten in the light.

Each one an echo of its neighbour.

Their shape in time no one can measure.

Never alone for each one twinned

They change direction for the wind.

Patterned patchwork, scalloped down,

The surface heaving without sound.

No lapping can be heard… no cry

As each wave lives, it’s soon to die.

It’s birth way only for a second

And I was there to see it happen.

No one else will ever see

The waves that lived just for me.

The Lake by Gary Freeman

While it is sad that the poem’s author never got to know about how well regarded it would become, it is wonderful that the poem will continue to exist in the way that it does. It is a beautiful poem that encapsulates much of the emotion of walking around and watching the lake, but also the transience of life itself – a theme that my research interests in relation to Japan (and the concept of mono-no-aware) touches upon as I have discuss in my book Japan: The Basics, my research about the JL123 crash, and in novels such as FOUR. I suppose this aspect is particularly poignant given what happened to the poem’s creator.

There is an additional poignancy for me. After I got the news that my father, Peter Hood, had passed away, I went for a long walk. Not wanting to be in total quiet, I listened to the original soundtrack of the Climber’s High movie while I took a walk to the lake. Although it was dark and I could not see the words, I went to sit on a bench close to the poem to spend some time reflecting. Its proximity, together with the music, gave me strength and helped set the right mood for the moment.

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