Background:  from Notre Dame -- One Hundred Years, by Arthur J. Hope, C.S.C. (


"The Chesterton party arrived at Notre Dame on the evening of October 4th, 1930. The lectures began on the following Monday. On Friday, the 10th, in the evening, the stadium was solemnly dedicated. Navy had come on for the dedicatory game, and Father O'Donnell was busy with them. He had told Johnny Mangan, the University chauffeur, to look after the Chestertons, and to see that they got into the stadium and that Mr. Chesterton had a seat on the platform from which the speeches were to be made, There were about twenty thousand people present, and when the students saw the magnificent bulk of Chesterton going toward the platform, they cheered wildly: "He's a man! Who's a man? He's a Notre Dame man!" Chesterton turned nervously to Mangan, saying: "My, they're angry!" "Angry!" exclaimed Johnny, "golly man, they're cheerin' you!" Whereat Chesterton began such a fit of laughing and sputtering as almost to choke himself."

On Saturday, Oct. 11, 1930, the Irish beat Navy, 26-2.  What follows is Chesterton's poem commemorating the occasion:

The Arena

Causa Nostrae Laetitiae

(Dedicated to the University of Notre Dame, Indiana)

There uprose a golden giant
                        On the gilded house of Nero
Even his far-flung flaming shadow and his image swollen large
                        Looking down on the dry whirlpool
                        Of the round Arena spinning
As a chariot-wheel goes spinning; and the chariots at the charge.

                        And the molten monstrous visage
                        Saw the pageants, saw the torments,
Down the golden dust undazzled saw the gladiators go,
                        Heard the cry in the closed desert
                        Te salutant morituri,
As the slaves of doom went stumbling, shuddering, to the shades below.

                         "Lord of Life, of lyres and laughter,
                         Those about to die salute thee,
At thy godlike fancy feeding men with bread and beasts with men,
                        But for us the Fates point deathward
                        In a thousand thumbs thrust downward,
And the Dog of Hell is roaring through the lions in their den."

            I have seen, where a strange country
                        Opened its secret plains about me,
One great golden dome stand lonely with its golden image, one
                        Seen afar, in strange fulfillment,
                        Through the sunlit Indian summer
That Apocalyptic portent that has clothed her with the Sun.

                         She too looks on the Arena
                         Sees the gladiators grapple,
She whose names are Seven Sorrows and the Cause of All Our Joy,
                         Sees the pit that stank with slaughter
                         Scoured to make the courts of morning
For the cheers of jesting kindred and the scampering of a boy.

                        "Queen of Death and deadly weeping
                        Those about to live salute thee,
Youth untroubled; youth untutored; hateless war and harmless mirth
                        And the New Lord's larger largesse
                        Holier bread and happier circus,
Since the Queen of Sevenfold Sorrow has brought joy upon the earth."

                        Burns above the broad arena
                        Where the whirling centuries circle,
Burns the Sun-clothed on the summit, golden-sheeted, golden shod,
                        Like a sun-burst on the mountains,
                        Like the flames upon the forest
Of the sunbeams of the sword-blades of the Gladiators of God.

                        And I saw them shock the whirlwind
                        Of the World of dust and dazzle:
And thrice they stamped, a thunderclap; and thrice the sand-wheel swirled;
                        And thrice they cried like thunder
                        On Our Lady of the Victories,
The Mother of the Master of the Masterers of the World.

                        "Queen of Death and Life undying
                        Those about to live salute thee;
Not the crawlers with the cattle; looking deathward with the swine,
                        But the shout upon the mountains
                        Of the men that live for ever
Who are free of all things living but a Child; and He was thine."

--G.K. Chesterton (1930)