When I think of the lemurs depression engulfs me 'á peu que le coeur ne me fend'. As W.H. Hudson says, ‘they have angel’s eyes’ and they die of flu.
GRAVES OF THE LEMURS
Whoopee. Gentle and fearless, he passed four leafy years in the South of France. He would chase large dogs, advancing backwards and glaring through his hind legs, then jump chittering at them and pull their tails. He died through eating a poisoned fig laid down for rats. The children who saw him take the fruit tried to coax it from him, but he ran up a tree with it. There they watched him eat and die.
Polyp. Most gifted of lemurs, who hated aeroplanes in the sky, on the screen and even on the wireless. How he would have hated this war! He could play in the snow or swim in a river or conduct himself in a nightclub; he judged human beings by their voices; biting some, purring over others, while for one or two well-seasoned old ladies he would brandish a black prickle-studded penis, shaped like an eucalyptus seed. Using his tail as an aerial, he would lollop through long grass to welcome his owners, embracing them with little cries and offering them a lustration from his purple tongue and currycomb teeth. His manners were those of some spoiled young Maharajah, his intelligence not inferior, his heart all delicacy, -woman, gin and muscats were his only weaknesses. Alas, he died of pneumonia while we scolded him for coughing, and with him vanished the sea-purple cicada kingdom of calanque and stone-pine and the concept of life as an arrogant private dream shared by two
As the French soldier said of the Chleuhs in Morocco, ‘Je les aime et je les tue’. So it is with the lemurs, Black and grey bundles of vitality, eocene ancestors from whom we are all descended, whose sun-greeting call some hold to be the origin of the word ‘Ra’ and thus of human language,-we have treated these kings in exile as we used Maoris and Marquesas islanders or the whistling Guanches of Teneriff,-all those golden island-races, famous for beauty, whom Europe has taken to its shabby heart to exploit and ruin.
To have set foot in Lemuria is to have been close to the mysterious sources of existence, to have known what it is to live wholly in the present, to soar through the green world four yards above the ground, to experience sun, warmth, love and pleasure as intolerably as we glimpse them in a waking dream, and to have heard that heart-rendering cry of the lonely or abandoned which goes back to our primaeval dawn. Wild ghost faces from a lost continent who soon will be extinct.
Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave, 1944.