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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/238

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ing new is learned, and time only is lost) could be caused to pass off more rapidly—somewhat resembling reflex actions the brain would be left free to turn to other, to higher aims.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from Die Gartenlaube.



IN a recent number of "The Popular Science Monthly" Professor McElroy's brilliant essay on the cause and cure of feudalism was prefaced by a question which has, indeed, been but rarely investigated from a scientific point of view. The debasement of the noblest Caucasian nations during the thousand years following the day when the power of Rome collapsed under the blows of the freedom-loving Goths seems certainly the most striking anomaly in the history of mankind. Yet would it have been well for those nations if their debasement had been confined to that loss of personal liberty which in pagan Greece and Rome followed the ascendency of a military despotism. But how shall we account for the fact that in mediæval Europe that loss was accompanied by a general neglect of science and education, a general decadence of industry, and a wide-spread epidemic of monstrous superstitions? Thus supplemented, Professor McElroy's question expresses the great enigma of the middle ages—an enigma which can not be wholly explained by the "adaptation of the horse to warfare and the development of defensive armor."

The doctrine of evolution recognizes the fact that the development of social and physical organisms is not an unbroken march of progress. Advancement alternates with pauses, as day with night, or life with death; the phenomena of progressive life roll through the cycles of germination, maturity, and decay. In the household of Nature every grave is a cradle; the mold of every fallen tree furthers the growth of new trees. Grecian colonies flourished on the ruins of Troy, Persian provinces on the ruins of Babylon, Macedonian kingdoms on the grave of the Persian Empire; Roman legionaries inherited the wealth and the culture of conquered Greece. The conquerors of Rome were the noblest, stoutest, and manliest races of the Caucasian world; freemen, in love with health and Nature, yet withal with poetry, glory, honor, justice, and honest thrift. They planted their banners in the garden-lands of the West; and their empires, gilt by the morning light of a new era, were founded under auspices far happier than those of the Arabian satrapies in the worn-out soil of the East. In less than five hundred years after the establishment of their political independence, the civilization of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Arabs, had developed its fairest flowers—industry, commercial activity, art, liberal