Although he has lived in Sydney for the last 20 years, since returning to Australia from England, William Baylebridge is Brisbane-born and educated, an old pupil of the East Brisbane State school and the Brisbane Grammar. He is the greatest poet Queensland has produced.
Baylebridge's poetry is frequently very obscure, but his lines are as polished as an agate; and he is one of the few really accomplished writers of poetry in Australia. His latest volume is entitled "Sextains"; and, like, all that he has published of recent years, it has been issued from his own private Tallabila Press, beautifully printed and delicately bound. In this work Mr. Baylebridge is as keen a craftsman as he is a poet, always a lover of the beautiful.
What he calls 'Sextains' are poems of six lines, each complete in itself. In the sonnet he has no equal in Australian poetry, although many of those in "Love Redeemed" are obscure in meaning and full of the conceits of the 17th century poets, who have had on him a curiously marked influence. In the same way he has made himself a master of the sextet, a vehicle of verse that is rarely used because of its rhythmic difficulties and its need for compression. Mr. Baylebridge has collected 40 of them. That entitled "The Miracle" is an illustration of his mastery of this kind of verse:
My heart: its birds away, its branches bare,
Swooned in eclipse; the wind through these that sighed,
Chill-breath'd, seemed 'burthening, in some lost despair.
Its perished music and its withered pride.
You laughing came: it woke; and flowering wide,
All Spring was there!
All are like that: lines of intense beauty, but obscure in meaning until you seek it out. However obscure he may appear to some readers, he is certainly not slovenly. He knows what he wants to express, and he will search until he has found the one word that will serve the purpose. Like the poetry of Chris Brennan, it is not popular, but popularity is not one of the things that William Baylebridge has ever sought.
"SEXTAINS," by William Baylebridge (private Tallabila Press, Sydney).
First published in The Courier-Mail, 28 January 1939
[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]