A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 28, 2015
“I’d rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are” (poem)

"I’d rather be a Could Be, If I cannot be an Are” is a poem that Brooklyn-born author Robert W. Chambers (1865-1933) published in the book Iole (1905). The poem was reprinted in many newspapers and magazines.

New York-born actor and comedian Milton Berle (1908-2002) has often been given credit for the poem, but he obviously did not coin it.


Wikipedia: Robert W. Chambers
Robert William Chambers (May 26, 1865 – December 16, 1933) was an American artist and fiction writer, best known for his book of short stories entitled The King in Yellow, published in 1895.

Google Books
Iole
By Robert W. Chambers
New York, NY: D. Appleton & Co.
1906 (trademark 1905)
Pp. 117-118:
TO BE OR NOT TO BE

I’d rather be a Could Be,
If I cannot be an Are;
For a Could Be is a May Be
With a chance of touching par.

I had rather be a Has Been
Than a Might Have Been, by far;
For a Might Be is a Hasn’t Been
But a Has was once an Are!

Also an Are is Is and Am;
A Was was all of these;
So I’d rather be a Has Been
Than a Hasn’t, if you please.

3 January 1906, Bradford (PA) Era, “Random Notes,” pg. 6, col. 3:
The following is from Iole, a late novel by Robert W. Chambers:

I’d rather be a Could Be,
If I cannot be an Are;
For a Could Be is a May Be
With a chance of touching par.

I had rather be a Has Been
Than a Might Have Been, by far;
For a Might Be is a Hasn’t Been
But a Has was once an Are!

Also an Are is Is and Am;
A Was was all of these;
So I’d rather be a Has Been
Than a Hasn’t, if you please.

17 January 1906, Rockford (IL) Morning Star, “Breakfast Table Chat,” pg. 5, col. 3:
I’d rather be a Could Be,
If I cannot be an Are;
For a Could Be is a May Be
With a chance of touching par.

I had rather be a Has Been
Than a Might Have Been, by far;
For a Might Be is a Hasn’t Been
But a Has was once an Are!

Also an Are is Is and Am;
A Was was all of these;
So I’d rather be a Has Been
Than a Hasn’t, if you please.
-- Robert W. Chambers

Google Books
Werner’s Readings and Recitations, Np. 37
New York, NY: Edgar S. Werner & Co.
1906
Pg. 55:
TO BE OR NOT TO BE.
I’D rather be a Could Be,
If I cannot be an Are;
For a Could Be is a May Be
With a chance of touching par.

I had rather be a Has Been
Than a Might Have Been, by far;
For a Might Be is a Hasn’t Been
But a Has was once an Are!

Also an Are is Is and Am;
A Was was all of these;
So I’d rather be a Has Been
Than a Hasn’t, if you please.

Google Books
15 September 1906, Iowa Medical Journal, pg. 159:
TO BE OR NOT TO BE.
I’d rather be a Could Be,
If I cannot be an Are;
For a Could Be is a May Be
With a chance of touching par.

I had rather be a Has Been
Than a Might Have Been, by far;
For a Might Be is a Hasn’t Been
But a Has was ONCE an Are!

Also an Are is Is and Am;
A Was WAS all of these;
So I’d rather be a Has Been
Than a Hasn’t, if you please.

Robert Chambers in Iole.

Google Books
The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Inspirational Quotes
By Wendy Toliver
New york, NY: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
2004
Pg. 407:
I’d rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are;
because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star.
I’d rather be a has-been than a might-have-been, by far;
for a might have-been has never been, but a has was once an are.
-- Milton Berle

reddit
“I’d rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are; because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star. I’d rather be a has-been than a might-have been, by far. For a might-have been has never been, but a has was once an are.” -Milton Berle (self.quotes)
submitted April 5, 2013 by HXCg4m3r
Last one of the day. I saw this on a wall at an old fish restaurant on vacation as a kid and it stuck with me ever since. I love poetry and motivational quotes. I’m sure you all do too. So here ya go.

Wikiquote: Talk:Milton Berle
Unsourced
. I’d rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are; because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star. I’d rather be a has-been than a might-have-been, by far; for a might have-been has never been, but a has was once an are.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Monday, December 28, 2015 • Permalink