In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Had I the Choice

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: About 1885

Whitman Archive ID: yal.00040

Source: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Transcribed from digital images of the original. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: "Had I the Choice" was first published in the "Fancies at Navesink" sequence in the August 1885 issue of Nineteenth Century. This manuscript was likely written in 1885, shortly before the poem's publication.

Notes written on manuscript: On leaf 1 verso, in unknown hand: "Inlay as it is"

Contributors to digital file: Nick Krauter, Lisa Renfro, Stephen Boykewich, Andrew Jewell, Kenneth Price, Brett Barney, and Nicole Gray

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last revise

To limn the stately and the
beautiful—to emulate at will

Had I the Choice

Had I the choice to tally greatest bards

To limn the their portraits stately, and the beautiful—^—the power to
emulate at will

[paper glued]
[cut away]

Homer with all his wars and loftiest
warriors—Hector, Achilles, Ajax,

Or Shakspere's woe‐envelop'd entangled Hamlet,
Lear, Othello—Tennyson's fair

Metre, or wit the best, or choice con-
ceit ^to wield, or fin perfect rhyme, triumph delight
of singers

Had I ^ indeed the choice These, these, O sea, all these of living winds.
all, all theose I'd gladly barter

Could Would you the undulation of your one wave, its trick to me transfer

WCould Could you but breathe one one breath upon
my this verse,

And leave its odor there.

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