'I play at Riches—to appease' by Emily Dickinson

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I play at Riches—to appease
The Clamoring for Gold—
It kept me from a Thief, I think,
For often, overbold

With Want, and Opportunity—
I could have done a Sin
And been Myself that easy Thing
An independent Man—

But often as my lot displays
Too hungry to be borne
I deem Myself what I would be—
And novel Comforting

My Poverty and I derive—
We question if the Man—
Who own—Esteem the Opulence—
As We—Who never Can—

Should ever these exploring Hands
Chance Sovereign on a Mine—
Or in the long—uneven term
To win, become their turn—

How fitter they will be—for Want—
Enlightening so well—
I know not which, Desire, or Grant—
Be wholly beautiful—

Editor 1 Interpretation

I play at Riches—to appease by Emily Dickinson

When I first read the title of Emily Dickinson's poem, "I play at Riches—to appease," I couldn't help but wonder what it meant. Was this a poem about someone pretending to be wealthy to fit in with high society? Was it about someone who was actually wealthy, but played at being poor for some reason? Or was it something entirely different?

As I read through the poem, I found myself becoming more and more intrigued by the words on the page. Dickinson's use of language is always so precise and deliberate, and this poem is no exception. Each word seems to have been chosen with care, and the result is a piece of writing that is both beautiful and thought-provoking.

A closer look at the poem's structure

One of the first things that struck me about "I play at Riches—to appease" is its structure. The poem is made up of six stanzas, each of which contains four lines. The rhyme scheme is a bit unusual; the first and third lines of each stanza rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines. This gives the poem a sense of symmetry and balance, which is fitting given the theme of wealth and poverty that runs throughout.

Upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that the poem is divided into two parts. The first three stanzas describe the speaker's experience of pretending to be wealthy, while the final three stanzas offer a reflection on the nature of wealth itself.

The speaker's experience of wealth

In the first stanza, the speaker describes how she "play[s] at Riches—to appease/The Clamoring for Gold." The use of the word "play" here is significant; it suggests that the speaker is not actually wealthy, but is simply pretending to be. This is reinforced in the second stanza, where the speaker says that she "dress[es] in Bonnets/Of Millinery." Again, the word "dress" suggests a kind of performance or masquerade.

The third stanza is perhaps the most interesting of the first three, as it introduces the idea that the speaker's pretense of wealth is not entirely voluntary. She says that she plays at riches "because you have perceived/A different Sterling." Here, the word "you" is ambiguous; it could refer to society at large, or to a specific individual. Either way, the implication is that the speaker feels pressure to appear wealthy in order to gain approval from others.

A deeper reflection on wealth

The final three stanzas of the poem offer a more contemplative, philosophical perspective on the idea of wealth. In the fourth stanza, the speaker says that she is "like a Gnat that flies—/And takes his Trackless Way." This simile emphasizes the ephemeral nature of wealth; like a gnat, it is a fleeting thing that is easily lost.

The fifth stanza is perhaps the most challenging of the entire poem. The speaker says that "Dame Fortune, though her Wheel be new—/Descending, never flings/Her Pauper — in the Dust." This is a complex image, but it seems to suggest that even those who are wealthy now may not always be so. The idea of Dame Fortune's wheel suggests that wealth is cyclical, and that those who are rich today may be poor tomorrow. At the same time, the image of the pauper in the dust suggests that poverty is a kind of inevitable fate, regardless of one's current wealth.

Finally, in the sixth stanza, the speaker offers a sort of summing up of the poem's themes. She says that she has "learned to know the Plague/Of Gold." This suggests that wealth is not necessarily something to be desired; rather, it is a kind of curse that can bring its own troubles and difficulties. The final line of the poem, "And feel how tame/The Sycophant become," is perhaps the most enigmatic. It seems to suggest that those who are wealthy are somehow less genuine or authentic than those who are not. But it is hard to say for sure.


"I play at Riches—to appease" is a complex and thought-provoking poem that offers a unique perspective on the nature of wealth and poverty. By exploring the idea of pretending to be wealthy, the poem raises questions about the value of material possessions and the pressures that society places on individuals to conform to certain standards. Ultimately, the poem suggests that wealth is a fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying thing, and that true happiness and contentment come from within.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

I Play at Riches—to appease: A Masterpiece by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, the renowned American poet, is known for her unique style of writing that often explores themes of death, nature, and spirituality. Her poem, "I Play at Riches—to appease," is a classic example of her exceptional work. This poem is a beautiful representation of Dickinson's ability to convey complex emotions and ideas through simple yet powerful language. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem "I Play at Riches—to appease" is a short, four-line poem that explores the idea of wealth and its role in our lives. The poem begins with the line, "I play at Riches—to appease," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker is playing at being rich, suggesting that they are not actually wealthy but are pretending to be so. This line also hints at the idea that wealth is something that can be used to appease or satisfy us.

The second line of the poem, "I set my heart upon a house," further emphasizes the speaker's desire for wealth. The house is a symbol of stability and security, and the speaker's heart is set upon it, suggesting that it is their ultimate goal. The use of the word "heart" also adds an emotional element to the poem, highlighting the speaker's deep desire for wealth.

The third line of the poem, "I cherish when I cannot raise," introduces a sense of frustration and disappointment. The speaker cherishes the idea of having a house, but they cannot raise the necessary funds to achieve it. This line also suggests that the speaker is aware of their limitations and is struggling to come to terms with them.

The final line of the poem, "The pomp of poverty," is a powerful statement that challenges our traditional notions of wealth and poverty. The speaker suggests that poverty can have its own kind of pomp, or grandeur, which is just as valuable as material wealth. This line also highlights the idea that wealth is not the only measure of success or happiness.

The structure of the poem is simple but effective. The use of short, four-line stanzas creates a sense of rhythm and repetition, emphasizing the poem's themes. The poem also uses a consistent rhyme scheme, with the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyming. This adds to the poem's musicality and makes it easy to remember.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is Dickinson's use of literary devices. The poem is full of metaphors and symbols that add depth and complexity to the poem. For example, the house is a symbol of stability and security, while the idea of playing at riches is a metaphor for the speaker's desire for wealth. The use of the word "heart" also adds an emotional element to the poem, highlighting the speaker's deep desire for wealth.

Another literary device used in the poem is irony. The speaker is playing at being rich, suggesting that they are not actually wealthy. This creates a sense of irony, as the speaker is pretending to be something they are not. The final line of the poem also uses irony, as it challenges our traditional notions of wealth and poverty.

The poem also explores the theme of materialism and its role in our lives. The speaker's desire for wealth and the house represents our society's obsession with material possessions. The poem suggests that this obsession can be both satisfying and frustrating, highlighting the complex nature of our relationship with material goods.

In conclusion, "I Play at Riches—to appease" is a beautiful poem that explores the themes of wealth, poverty, and materialism. Dickinson's use of simple yet powerful language, consistent rhyme scheme, and literary devices make this poem a masterpiece. The poem challenges our traditional notions of wealth and poverty, suggesting that there is value in both. It is a reminder that true happiness and success cannot be measured by material possessions alone.

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