From "A Lazy Day" by Paul Laurence Dunbar:

No ripple stirs the placid pool,

When my adventurous line is cast,

A truce to sport, while clear and cool,

The mirrored clouds slide softly past.

What is the meaning of "a truce to sport"? What part of the sentence does it refer to?

  • I read this as a truce between the weather (represented by the lack of wind on the water, the clear, cool air and the storm-free clouds) and the speaker, in the name of sport (here, fishing). In other words, in honor of the sport of fishing, the weather has agreed not to interfere with (=has come to a truce with) the narrator. – user13141 Nov 4 '13 at 19:24

I think you're on to something in your comment: "A truce to X" is being used to mean "a break from X".

There is no ripple in the pond because the author is not casting his line; and he is not casting his line because he is taking "a truce to sport", that is, a break from the 'sporting activity' of fishing, so that he can admire the day and watch the clouds reflected in the water.

  • O, so he does not cast the line. Now it becomes coherent. Thanks, Hellion! – CowperKettle Nov 4 '13 at 19:49
  • He's not currently casting his line because his line is already cast, though, implying he is currently fishing, and thus engaged in sport. – user13141 Nov 4 '13 at 19:51
  • @onomatomaniak, I don't believe the poem states that he has cast his line; my reading is that "there is no ripple from the casting of the line because I am taking a break from fishing". – Hellion Nov 4 '13 at 19:59
  • 1
    I guess we just read that sentence differently, then. I can't parse "when my adventurous line is cast" as meaning anything other than his line has been cast. – user13141 Nov 4 '13 at 20:03
  • @onomatomaniak, What if I rephrased it as "there is no ripple when my line is cast because my line is not being cast"? I.e. Casting causes ripples; there are no ripples; therefore no casting has happened. – Hellion Nov 4 '13 at 20:36

Here's one interpretation, expressed in a series of points.

The concept of truce cannot be separated from that of war, though it lacks war's defining characteristics and is in many ways its opposite.

Fishing is something like a sport, but it lacks the aggressive characteristics of most competitive sports.

The word truce can mean both the state of truce or the act of bringing that truce about.

The phrase 'a truce to sport' could refer to the specific moment being described above, the pastime of fishing, or possibly the casting of the speakers line (casting it as a symbolic gesture).

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Tom! Could we rephrase it as "a peaceful pastime dedicated to sport ", "a bit of quiet time given to fishing"? I stumble on this to, among other things. As far as I get it, "a truce to something" used to mean "a cessation of something", like "We may expatiate further, but a truce to our idle speculation! Let us instead .. " – CowperKettle Nov 4 '13 at 18:00
  • Hi CopperKettle! I'm sorry I didn't reply: I don't check StackExchange regularly. Maybe I can set up an email notification. – Tom Robinson Nov 21 '13 at 12:10
  • To me it sounds, amongst other things, like a call for peace. For example: 'let's call a truce to sport, for now, and fish instead!' – Tom Robinson Nov 21 '13 at 12:12
  • At the same time it is also a description of fishing as a truce to sport. – Tom Robinson Nov 21 '13 at 12:16
  • However there is this interesting contradiction in that fishing IS a sport. And yet it is also a relaxing activity, a solitary one, a motionless one, for the most part. Perhaps that explains the contradictions that you and Hellion talked about, as well. – Tom Robinson Nov 21 '13 at 12:17

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