We play at Paste —
Till qualified, for Pearl —
Then, drop the Paste —
And deem ourself a fool —

The Shapes — though — were similar —
And our new Hands
Learned Gem-Tactics —
Practicing Sands —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem We play at Paste


  1. Ginny says:

    I understand the comparisons of youth to adulthood but I’ve never read the poem this way. I see a deeper sentiment. We play at paste is the life we live now, we become qualified for pearl, full understanding, when we pass from this life to another. Of course this only applies to those of us who believe we will some day have new hands.

  2. frumpo says:

    We build on what we have known before. Our old knowledge was not useless or stupid, then.

  3. Ligeia says:

    My 1st idea when I read this is that paste is a glue on which we are stuck and we “play” – try to move there until we gain the qualification to get over that and fight for the “pearl”, our pearl which is different for everyone and it is something precious…
    I din’t know paste means fake jewllery!! I liked your explanation Lavergne.. I like analysing poems but it’s easier for me to do it in my language’s literature… Though I love Emily+her poems!

  4. G. Lavergne says:

    Paste is an older, now seldom-used word for fake jewelry, as in costume jewelry. She’s saying that in our youth or ignorance we are often enticed or attracted by something counterfeit. Then we mature or come to a realization (qualified) and give up the counterfeit for something real or true. In the second stanza, though, she suggests that our youthful infatuations were not entirely a waste of time because they were a sort of practice for the real thing.

  5. Rebeca says:

    i don’t care for this poem….i have no idea what it really means!?

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