"Vancouver Lights" appears in Birney's first collection of poems, David and Other Poems, most of which Birney wrote shortly after World War II began in 1939. The collection launched Birney's career as a poet and the book received the Governor General's Award for Poetry in 1942, the most prestigious award given for poetry in Canada. Birney read the poem on a CBC radio program on Canadian poetry in early February 1943. Consisting of five stanzas which utilize a kind of visual prosody, the poem is a lyric meditation on humanity's frailty, and on the possibility of faith in humanity's future. In that sense it is similar to Matthew Arnold's "