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The Lake by Roger McGough Essay 04

The Lake by Roger McGough Essay 04

The Lake by Roger McGough

The Lake Essay 4

Do you think that the poet cares about the environment in ‘The Lake’? Give reasons.

My opinion is that the poet is very concerned about the environment. He seems unhappy that a once-beautiful lake is now something that people go out of their way to avoid. The cause that is hinted at for its degradation is pollution. In the water there are no longer fish but instead plastic bags and other litter that passers-by have dumped there. I think that the invention of the underwater pigs, who are now ready to eat human beings, is a warning to readers of the poem that our wasteful habits will have serious consequences. It is important that the first stanza of the poem alludes to the assumptions of Romantic poetry. The line ‘the sedge of course has withered’ refers to a line in a famous poem by the early nineteenth-century poet John Keats, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’: ‘The sedge has withered from the lake’. Romantic poetry typically celebrated the beauty of nature, or its magical, enchanting properties. Even its ugliness was redeemable, as in Keats’s poem. In McGough’s poem, the natural environment is completely beyond saving and the poet feels distressed by its bleakness.

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The Lake by Roger McGough Essay 03

The Lake by Roger McGough Essay 03

The Lake by Roger McGough

The Lake Essay 3

What do the underwater pigs make you feel when you read ‘The Lake’? Support your arguments with evidence from the poem.

The pigs make me feel frightened because they are unnatural and repellent.  They are dirty, living in muddy sties, and they feed on horrible things like dead pets and rubbish (and worse!). The way in which they suck out the contents of a can is particularly disgusting. I also find it worrying how towards the end of the poem the pigs surface, look at human houses and lick their lips: they seem to be preparing to attack and eat us, too. In a sense, however, it is hard to visualize the pigs as predators. Pigs are conventionally harmless and lazy. The poet employs child-like language to describe them, mentioning their ‘piggy’ eyes. At the same time, they are horrifying because they oddly resemble human beings: they sleep on our mattresses and eat out discarded cans. The most frightening element of the poem is the idea that we have created these pigs.

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The Lake by Roger McGough Essay 02

The Lake by Roger McGough Essay 02

The Lake by Roger McGough

The Lake Essay 2

In your opinion, is the poet looking to blame anyone in ‘The Lake’?

I think that the poem casts blame generally at the public – at us, indeed – for not taking proper care of the environment. It is clearly our fault that the evil, unnatural pigs have been created and thrived at the bottom of the lake. They live off the various rubbish that, rather than disposing of properly, we have thrown into the lake: they make homes out of mattresses and plastic bags and eat rotten food. It is strongly implied that it was exactly this kind of habit of wasteful that destroyed the lake in the first place, killing all its natural inhabitants, like fish. Now people hurry past the lake, trying to ignore the problem. The poem ends by enacting a punishment on human beings. Not only are they kept imprisoned in their houses with their replica version of nature (such as plastic ducks), unable to enjoy the natural world they have ruined, but also the pigs are massing to attack them.

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The Lake by Roger McGough Essay 01

The Lake by Roger McGough Essay 01

The Lake by Roger McGough

The Lake Essay 1

Do you find ‘The Lake’ a funny or a frightening poem?

I find ‘The Lake’ funny and frightening at the same time. It is a comic poem that is also satirical, and voices a serious message about the consequences that our wasteful attitude to the environment will have. From the beginning of the poem the tone is disturbing. The final line of the first stanza is rich with menace, trailing off eerily: ‘But there is life there. There is life…’. Yet the language of the poem is also at time child-like and innocent. The pigs are said to have ‘piggy eyes’, and the poet also presents the pigs as strangely sweet and tame with expressions like ‘They love it here’ and ‘Rusty cans they like the best’. Nevertheless, the poem builds to a worrying climax. The pigs are terrifying omnivorous: they eat rubbish but also, horribly, ‘drowned pets’. (We are never told how these pets drowned, increasing the poem’s air of mystery). By the end of the poem they are getting ready to taste human flesh.

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