The Arena

The Arena is a fable written by famed Canadian Author, Ruth Desjardins

The Arena

Life is an Arena 

Where gladiators come 

To fight for Love and Honour; 

They enter one by one– 

With death the only exit– 

There is no place to run. 

A Hero enters boldly, 

Ready for the strife, 

To face the Villain eye to eye, 

Prepared to risk his life, 

Determined he will conquer, 

But something isn’t right. 

Expecting to see Evil, 

He came with high ideals; 

Armed, he came, for combat, 

And strode into the field; 

And met instead a friendly smile. 

He felt his senses reel. 

He sees no cruel enemy, 

No reason for alarm, 

Instead, a feast to welcome him, 

No one to threaten harm. 

He drops his sword in willing trust– 

The Hero is disarmed. 

His enemy sat watching, 

Secure in his disguise, 

Knowing that his evil soul 

Had gone unrecognized. 

He leans toward the Hero now 

To whisper loving lies. 

Life pressed slowly onward 

As, wrapped in honest trust, 

The Hero felt his confidence 

Slowly turn to dust. 

The weapon of his intellect 

Was covered now with rust. 

He watched as others like him 

Sought success and joy, 

Saw the ruins of their souls, 

Like bits of shattered toys. 

He struggled with illusions now– 

And Evil’s secret ploys. 

Despair seemed all around him, 

He screamed an anguished, “Why?” 

“Why is Life so full of pain? 

“Why do I want to die? 

“What is it that Life asks of me? 

“And why am I so blind?” 

Here in Life’s Arena 

The battle has begun; 

With struggle wrenching through his soul, 

The Hero’s time has come, 

With Death the only exit– 

There is no place to run. 

Stripped of every weapon, 

Driven to his knees, 

No one to hear his anguished cries, 

Or listen to his pleas, 

With darkness all around him, 

At last the Hero sees. 

At last he hears the the inner voice 

That tells him what to do, 

That whispers from within him, 

“The answers lie in you! 

It’s time to make a journey 

To find the real you. 

“You have to find your innocense, 

You have to understand: 

The helplessness of childhood 

Is part of Evil’s plan. 

It’s time to throw your guilt away; 

It’s time to be a man. 

“Look back and see where fear began 

And guilt, self-doubt, and pain; 

Look back and see it clearly. 

And judge it once again. 

Look back and find your innocense. 

It’s there for you to claim. 

“Abuse a child suffered, 

That made you think you’re bad– 

A child that’s been molested– 

Or beatings that you’ve had; 

The scorn, the sneers, the mockery 

Of dreams that made you glad. 

“Contradictions taught as truth– 

Short-circuiting your mind, 

Intimidation, twisting truth, 

Lies–to make you blind, 

Childish tantrums, rude insults, 

The love you couldn’t find… 

“Frightened little victim, 

Too scared to see the Truth, 

“Accepted guilt upon yourself– 

Your innocense forsook– 

Look back and see your Virtue! 

Look back and see the Truth! 

“Now rise with tears of beauty! 

Now feel that beauty grow! 

Stand in Truth and Freedom! 

Feel wonder in your soul! 

For now your Pride will enter, 

And now your Strength will grow. 

“It’s time to learn the Truth now, 

It’s time for you to find– 

Though it’s your Life they’re after– 

The battle’s for your Mind! 

Your Mind, your Soul, your Innocense, 

Your Confidence, your Pride! 

“Be brave, Be strong. And very wise… 

The Enemy is near. 

You’ve entered the Arena, 

And now you’re feeling fear; 

There is no door to look for; 

You must do battle here. 

“Accept it as a Challenge! 

Stand still! Call out your pride! 

Listen for serenity. 

Keep wisdom on your side. 

Remember….Watch your timing…. 

Your mind must open wide. 

“Don’t listen to your fears now. 

No time to think of loss; 

Project instead the battle won. 

Prepare to pay the cost. 

Now turn and face your Enemy 

Or all your dreams are lost! 

“Unmask the face lf Evil! 

Look while you still can! 

See what Evil really is. 

See the hidden Plan! 

Rise in Pride and break the spell 

That clutches every man! 

The Hero stood in terror 

Of what the Truth might be; 

He knew before he turned around 

He didn’t want to see; 

He didn’t want to know how bad 

The Truth would really be! 

He turned at last to look at it, 

The face of guilt and sin, 

And though the mask was still in place, 

Now he could see within, 

And everyone he’d ever loved 

Was looking back at him. 

“It must be an illusion 

There’s nothing I can do…” 

And Evil smiled and nodded, 

“I always win, it’s true. 

There is no use in fighting me. 

You see, I’m part of you.” 

He heard somebody wimper. 

He heard somebody scream. 

He felt the darkness closing in, 

Defeating all his dreams. 

The fight for Love and Honour 

Was not what it had seemed. 

Remembering how someone good 

Had looked into his eyes, 

And mirrored back a Beauty 

As true as summer skies, 

Knowing when they’d seen the good, 

It wasn’t a disguise. 

The Dream of Love he wanted 

Challenged him again; 

Like any dream she’d vanish– 

If he let Evil win. 

The choice was Love and Honour 

Or Evil’s mocking grin. 

He thought about the secret 

That he had held for years; 

He saw how Evil gripped him 

And mocked his bitter tears; 

He felt his soul tearing 

While Evil laughed and jeered; 

“Look into the mirror– 

My face looks back at you; 

You can’t escape the Evil 

No matter what you do 

Because of guilty secrets 

That are destroying you. 

“Look at how I hold you 

With ties you cannot break, 

With shame you feel a share in, 

With hope you can’t forsake; 

Feel the tug of sympathy 

And pity’s gripping ache.” 

He heard again the inner voice 

That begged him to survive; 

“You must reclaim your innocense 

To keep your soul alive! 

You have to throw your guilt away! 

Be strong! Be brave! Be wise! 

He saw again the face of Love 

Reflecting back his soul; 

He saw a look of reverence 

And felt his spirit grow. 

He understood the struggle now. 

And Evil’s scary show. 

Remembering his childhood, 

At last he understood; 

He knew how he had struggled 

And done the best he could; 

With Evil sometimes winning, 

He thought he was no good. 

And now he knew the reason 

Why Evil always won: 

Unsure inside of virtue, 

The shame for what he’d done 

Had left him prey to Evil 

Had made him want to run. 

But Evil loves a coward; 

It wants a man to flee; 

A coward is no hero. 

“But that’s what I must be! 

The fight for Love and Honour 

Is won inside of me!” 

He stood in Life’s arena, 

Knowing why he’d come, 

Knowing what he had to do; 

He had no need to run. 

He’d taken one long sum of life 

And Innocense had won. 

Something showed upon his face 

That Evil recognized. 

For Evil knows its enemy. 

The Good need no disguise. 

And Evil trembled as it heard 

A voice that laughed in pride. 

“By this you hope to trap me? 

You’ve naught but guilt to share! 

No Joy! No Love! No Beauty! 

No one to really care… 

Just bluff and empty jeering! 

I wonder how you dare!” 

The voice of Evil mocked him: 

“You have to go along….” 

Then Evil tried to blackmail; 

The Hero was too strong. 

“Not guilty! 

was his answer– 

It echoed loud and long. 

Then Evil tried to trick him, 

To twist the truth just so– 

To make him seem a villain 

With guilt upon his soul; 

But Innocense streaked through him. 

The Hero answered, “No!” 

So Evil looked for power 

The only way it could– 

The weakness of a doubting mind 

About what’s Right and Good 

Would be the wedge to grasp the soul; 

But still the Hero stood. 

“I know you need me humble; 

I know you need me scared; 

You need me to feel helpless; 

Demand your guilt be shared; 

You need me feeling hopeless; 

You thrive on my despair! 

“You’ll try to gain my sympathy 

But never my respect. 

Respect is paid to virtue. 

But this will be my test: 

How clear will be my thinking? 

How good will be my best?” 

Now Evil feared exposure, 

For Evil lives a lie. 

The darkened night of secrets 

Protects the guilt it hides. 

The Hero stood in sunlight. 

His eyes were open wide. 

The weapon of his intellect 

Had pierced the Evil veil; 

Seen the Truth that brought with it 

The brilliant light of day. 

And Evil fled in terror 

To hide itself away. 

Now Evil glared at Innocense, 

Aware that it was trapped; 

No weapon against intellect, 

It must remove the mask. 

Brutality and violence 

Must be the next attack! 

The Hero felt the cruel blow; 

He knew what he must do: 

“Even though you take my life, 

I’ve still defeated you. 

For all you really wanted 

Was that I be like you. 

“I’ll meet your cruel violence; 

I’ll fight to live today; 

If I must die, I’ll pay the cost 

But you can’t win this way. 

You have to make me join you; 

My soul’s your real prey. 

Evil threw it’s sword away, 

With mockery it said, 

“You’ve won your point. I’ll let you live. 

You’re no good to me dead. 

I like my victims squirming…. 

I’ll wait for you instead.” 

The Hero heard the laughter 

As Evil turned from him; 

The threat no longer stabbed him; 

He’d learned a way to win. 

And there in the Arena, 

His Life called out to him. 

He knew he’d faced his Enemy; 

He knew he would again; 

But now he looked for Beauty– 

To see Love’s face again. 

He saw her face aglow with pride! 

She’d waited there for him! 

The arms of Love enclosed him 

With Beauty wild and deep, 

An ecstacy of Freedom 

And Love that he would keep. 

He closed his eyes to rest then. 

And sleep a Hero’s sleep. 

Life is an Arena 

Where every soul must come 

To fight for Love and Honour; 

And it’s never really won. 

For Evil is relentless 

And there is no place to run. 

Life cries out for heroes! 

Don’t let them get your soul… 

For that would be your real death; 

Don’t let your Virtue go! 

With sharpened Mind and Innocense… 

You’re ready for the Foe! 

Keywords: The Arena | The Arena by Ruth Desjardins | The Arena: A Fable by Ruth Desjardins

About Author

Ruth Desjardins is a celebrated Canadian writer, born in Cobalt, Ontario, Canada.

1 Comment

  1. The Arena is probably the family’s favourite of our Mother’s works. I know much of this fable by heart. With so many life lessons, the arena teaches us to be gladiators, and to face evil down; To not be fooled, and to strive for love and glory every day. I can still hear my Mother’s voice reading this fable to me. Truly a great Canadian fable, which deserves to be recognized as such.

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