Identify five metaphors in Earle Birney's poem "Vancouver Lights."

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Earle Birney's "Vancouver Lights" employs many metaphors throughout. The theme of the poem itself is a metaphor that compares light and life. However, there are many specific metaphors in the poem that you can point to. Below, I mention one from each of the five stanzas.

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Earle Birney's "Vancouver Lights" employs many metaphors throughout. The theme of the poem itself is a metaphor that compares light and life. However, there are many specific metaphors in the poem that you can point to. Below, I mention one from each of the five stanzas.

The very first line compares the darkness of night on the mountains to a wimple. A wimple is a cloth headdress similar to the ones worn by nuns. This darkness wraps the mountains in the same way that cloth might cover a person's head.

In the second stanza, the eleventh line refers to a "quilt of lamps." This evokes the comfort that light brings to that of a dry, warm, and soft quilt. This offers a juxtaposition to the rest of the stanza which is full of wet, damp, and uncomfortable imagery.

In line 19 in the third stanza, humankind is compared to a mere spark in the darkness. This evokes the imagery of the sheer smallness of humanity in the vast darkness and of our fragility against the grandness of existence.

In the fourth stanza, in line 25, the metaphor of glowworms is used to describe people. This is used to show just how small we are, putting forth a small amount of light against the expanse of darkness around us.

The final stanza compares humans to the gods. We have become like Prometheus, who stole fire from the Sun to give humans light. However, we have taken it from no divine source yet have become god-like ourselves. Contrast this to the earlier metaphors of glowworms and sparks. Birney intends to show that even though we may destroy ourselves through this progress and our struggle against the darkness, at one time at least, there was light in the darkness.

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This poem by Earle Birney is extremely rich in imagery, beginning with a personification of night. Personification is a form of metaphor in which an inanimate object or concept is given human attributes and motivations: here, the night "sucks at the stars." This, combined with the subsequent image of the "city throbbing below," creates a sense that the night air is pulsating, rippling, like lights in a bay. You can identify other examples of personification in the first stanza.

In the second stanza, we see the metaphor of the "quilt of lamps." This image further helps us envisage how the bay looks, studded with points of light in the dark. The sea, too, is metaphorically described as "primal ink." The word "ink" intensifies the sense of the sea's darkness, while the word "primal" emphasizes the longevity of the sea and the fact that it has been here for longer than anything man-made.

Birney then invites the reader to consider a wider darkness: the darkness of space, in which we, the earth and its inhabitants, are "a spark beleaguered by darkness." Birney phrases this metaphor in several ways: we are also a "twinkle" in the midst of space. Space itself is imaginatively conceived as a "Nubian," a black man wearing a "necklace of nebulae," as if the universe is a dark god for whom the stars and planets are simply decoration.

I am sure you will be able to pick out other metaphors in this poem—there are many more.

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A metaphor is a comparison between two things which one would not necessarily associate. When examining Earle Birney's poem, "Vancouver Lights," many metaphors are present.

1."Quilt of lamps"- Here, the numerous lighthouses are compared to a quilt. Working in unison, like quilters, the lights serve their purpose (providing safety and comfort --much like a quilt). 

2. "We the unique glowworms"- Here, the speaker compares himself (assumed given the poet's gender) and the reader (through his use of the pronoun "we") to glowworms.

3. "This twinkle we make in a corner of emptiness"- Here, the small light the speaker is able to cast is compared to the light of a star. While not direct, one normally associates a "twinkle" with a star.

4. "Our Phoebus himself is a bubble"- Here, Phoebus (the god of the sun) is compared to a bubble.

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