The Inspiration of Poets
Follow Lord Byron to Sintra’s ‘Garden of Eden’
The Romantic poet Byron is regarded as one of the greatest English poets and travelled extensively. His poems are often quoted from differing parts of Europe but Sintra appeared to have a special place in Byron’s heart.
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron FRS (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824), known simply as Lord Byron, was an English poet, peer, and politician who became a revolutionary in the Greek War of Independence, and is considered one of the historical leading figures of the Romantic movement of his era.
From Portugal, Byron wrote a letter to his friend Mr. Hodgson in which he describes his mastery of the Portuguese language, but which seem to consist mainly of swearing and insults. Byron particularly enjoyed his stay in Sintra that is described in his poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage as “glorious Eden”.
“Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes,” frothed Lord Byron after his 1809 sojourn, “in variegated maze of mount and glen.” Writing home, the poet raved about “palaces and gardens rising in the midst of rocks, cataracts and precipices; convents on stupendous heights”.
Xintara retreats are located in one of these Quintas and gardens, and we seek today to provide a similar level of inspiration to our guests, whether that be poetic or simply through a relaxing break surrounded by nature’s beauty and enhanced through yoga, meditation and the Arts.
Interestingly, the word inspiration comes from the Latin Inspirare- ‘to breath in’.
It is also linked to the word ‘inspired’, defined as ‘to fill with an animating, quickening or exalting influence’. How many of us are inspired today? How many of us are even aware of our breathing? Is there a possibility that through the use of our breath we can become more inspired?
In many wisdom traditions, the breath is a core concept.
Ancient civilisations associated breathing with a sacred and universal life force. You could describe it as an alpha and an omega; the first breath marks the beginning of life and the last breath the end point of our lives.
A similar concept is picked up in the Christian Genesis tale, ‘but a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being….’
The awareness of the breath is a primary practice in many forms of meditation and mindfulness. It represents a focus and resting place for the attention of the mind, that monkey-like, swings from one place to another, from one thought to another. Many of us follow that monkey without realising it.
It takes a change in approach to stop, and breathe in, and to become aware of what one’s mind is doing. The very awareness of the thoughts influencing one’s behaviour then dissolves their hold on us returning us to a place of calm.
The breath has a quality that is both formless and ubiquitous. It has been described as a swinging door, ever present but always changing. Breath changes yet it never goes away. As described by Richard Gilpin, ‘to be aware of one’s breathing is to abide at the interface of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, change and continuity, being alive and dead.’
To breathe in therefore is to start a meditation, to start one’s journey in increasing one’s awareness. It is also to prepare oneself, to oxygenate our cells ahead of a new and challenging experience.
Just try it once in a while. Be inspired. Inspire. Breathe in (and then out!).