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A History of Science, Volume 5(of 5) by Williams

Came to Jena to study under Weigel


dream city it truly seems, when one comes to wander through its narrow, tortuous streets, between time-stained walls, amid its rustic population. Coming from Berlin, from Dresden, from Leipzig--not to mention America--one feels as if he had stepped suddenly back two or three centuries into the past. There are some evidences of modernity that mar the illusion, to be sure; but the preponderance of the old-time emblems is sufficient to leave the mind in a delightful glow of reminiscences. As a whole, the aspect of the central portion of the village--of the true Jena--cannot greatly have changed since the days when Luther stopped here on his way to Wittenberg; surely not since 1662, when the mighty young Leibnitz, the Aristotle of Germany, came to Jena to study under Weigel, the most famous of German mathematicians of that century. Here and there an old house has been demolished, to be sure; even now you may see the work of destruction going on, as a new street is being cut through a time-honored block close to the old church. But in the main the old thoroughfares run hither and thither, seemingly at random, as of old, disclosing everywhere at their limits a sky-line of picturesque gables, and shut in by walls that often are almost canon-like in narrowness; while the heavy, buttressed doors and the small, high-placed windows speak of a time when every house partook of the nature of the fortress.

The footway of the thoroughfares has no doubt vastly

changed, for it is for the most part paved now--badly enough, to be sure, yet, after all, paved as no city was in the good old days when garbage filled the streets and cleanliness was an unknown virtue. The Jena streets of to-day are very modern in their cleanliness; yet a touch of medievalism is retained in that the main work of cleaning is done by women. But, for that matter, it seems to the casual observer as if the bulk of all the work here were performed by the supposedly weaker sex. Certainly woman is here the chief beast of burden. In every direction she may be seen, in rustic garb, struggling cheerily along under the burden of a gigantic basket strapped at her back. You may see the like anywhere else in Germany, to be sure, but not often elsewhere in such preponderant numbers. And scarcely elsewhere does the sight jar so little on one's New-World sensibilities as in the midst of this mediaeval setting. One is even able to watch the old women sawing and splitting wood in the streets here, with no thought of anything but the picturesque-ness of the incident.

If one follows a band of basket-laden women, he will find that their goal is that focal-point of every old-time city, the market-place. There arrived, he will witness a scene common enough in Europe but hardly to be duplicated anywhere in America. Hundreds of venders of meat, fish, vegetables, cloths, and household utensils have their open-air booths scattered all across the wide space, and other hundreds of purchasers are there as well. Quaint garbs and quainter faces are everywhere, and the whole seems quite in keeping with the background of fifteenth-century houses that hedges it in on every side. Could John the Magnanimous, who rises up in bronze in the midst of the assembly, come to life, he would never guess that three and a half centuries have passed since he fell into his last sleep.

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