In a Loaning

The penultimate poem returns to the ‘kesh’ and ‘loaning’ of Heaney’s Ulster landscape. A short poem of both celebration and relief

The poem opens with a paradox: autumn described as the ‘back-end’ of the annual cycle represents rebirth for Heaney, delighted to have rediscovered his poetic voice: recovered speech/ Having its way again, I gave a cry.

In painting the colours and textures of autumn the final couplet confirms that there is lyrical life left in the old dog yet: ‘Not beechen green, but these shin-deep coffers/ Of copper-fired leaves, these beech boles grey.’

  • loaning: Ulster dialect; outside path, way;
  • beechen: archaic adjectival form ‘of beech’;
  • bole: tree trunk (from 14th century);
  • a single quatrain of 10-syllable lines;
  • the [əʊ] of the title recurs: Spoken/ boles; [i:] speech/ beechen green/ these shin/deep/ these beech; [ei] way/ again/ gave; [ai] I/ cry/ fired; [ɒ] coffers/ copper;


  • Writing poetry is complex; inspiration is not automatic. A later poem, In the Loaning, refers to the ‘ writer’s-block’ a poet can suffer which stifles his creativity. This poem goes some way to explaining the difficulties to be overcome in making meaningful use of one’s poetic voice.