Vancouver Lights Questions and Answers
by Earle Birney

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What are the metaphors in Earle Birney's poem "Vancouver Lights," and how does each metaphor influence our understanding of the element within the poem to which is applied?

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There are lots of metaphors in Earle Birney's "Vancouver Lights," some of which seem to contradict each other. In the opening stanza, the night "wimples" the mountains and "wraps" the landscape. This suggests that night is a sort of fabric which covers, and perhaps protects, the modesty of the landscape—especially because the word "wimple" is usually applied to the headgear of nuns. The mountains are veiled, shielded by night; they are made invisible by it.

The city, meanwhile, "webs" the landscape: this creates an immediately visual impression of the city as a spreading thing, within which the webs are presumably the tracks created by roads lit up in the darkness. "Web" does imply that the city is growing organically; it is a natural word which is, in keeping with the metaphor, describing a ship's lights as akin to a "firefly" in the water. Like a firefly, then, we assume that the ship is a small, glowing thing against a backdrop of darkness.

In the second stanza, Birney refers to a...

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