Books: Poet in Purple

D'ANNUNZIO: THE POET AS SUPERMAN (299 pp.)—Anthony Rhodes—Mc-Dowell, Obolensky ($4.95).

Any statement about Gabriele D'Annunzio is an understatement. Poets these days tend to be an almost muted species haunted by the dread that they may be understood by nonpractitioners of their private art. They do not. as did D'Annunzio. ride naked on horseback into the surf and don a purple cloak as a bathrobe, or drink wine from a virgin's skull.

Nor do they seduce many duchesses, boast of eating roast baby, or make royal asses of themselves in 50 fabulous ways.

Nor do they, as a rule, set the passions of a nation...

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