BACKGROUND OF THE POET
Jean – Joseph Rabearivelo was born in 1901 in Antananarivo, Madagascar. He was the only child of his mother. He was educated at Catholic mission school, and his desire to study more earned him an improvement in French language. After graduating from college, he worked as a proof – reader for a local publishing house in Antananarivo. It was believed that Jean – Joseph took his own life in 1937.
Analysis/summary of Cactus by Jean – Joseph Rabearivelo
Cactus by Jean – Joseph Rabearivelo is obviously a poem about the striving of a plant to survive in a harsh and equally dry climate. The poet describes the plant, cactus, as “flowers” in line 2. Indeed, cactus is a plant that grows in hot dry regions, and the region where the poet spots the cactus is specifically in Madagascar.
In the first stanza of the poem, the poet sees and compares the cluster of cactus to a “multitude of fused hands”. The image apparently given is the bringing closely together of a man’s fingers, but they will definitely not touch one another. This is a vivid description of how cactus is. It has entirely on the cluster pin – like prickles that ward off herbivore animals. Not only does the poet sees cactus as human palms or hands, he visualizes it as flowers which raise toward “the sky”. In spite of being seemingly like a man’s “fused fingers”, they are outrightly “fingerless” and “unshaked by the wind” which blows fiercely.
There has been claim that “a hidden spring/ wells” in “the unbroken palms” of the cactus. The unseen spring flows and “refreshes” many grasses, plants and herbs which are located “in the borders of the South[ern]” island of Madagascar.
But “here” – in the northern part of Madagascar – the cactus palms are quite contrast with the southern region that is dry. The cactuses in the northern island are “as green/ as moonbeam glancing through the forest.” The significant thing noted in the northern cactus is that they generate coolness to “the hillside of larive,” and they appear
separated from humans.
As the poet takes a close observation on the cactus, he notices the cactus, just like human, has a sickness which affects it. Seeing this that happened to the cactus, he is extremely spurred to study and “find the cause of their ravaging sickness” that kills the cluster of the cactus and make them appear as “golden flowers.”
In the last stanza of the poem, the poet claims he knows “a child/ still a prince in the kingdom of God.” The child is actually the poet who beholds how the cactus is adapted to the environment despite the tropical climate change.