How does "Marvell Noir" evoke "To His Coy Mistress" carpe diem poem, and the tough guy tone of "Noir" narrative, a crime story or thriller?...that is especially dark

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress" speaks with the idea of carpe diem (seize the day); in other words, Marvell cautions his lady not to waste time being coy (flirtatious, hard-to-get) when life passes by so quickly. He indicates that too soon the opportunity they have together in that moment will too soon be gone, as will youth and beauty.

"Marvell Noir" is a strange parody of Marvell's poem, and time is still an important element in this more contemporary poem. The speaker also talks about what they could do together if they had "the time." In this case, however, it is not that the woman is unwilling to take a chance with him: the time constraints seem to be based on the fact that what they are sharing at the moment will soon be ended.

This is where the "tough guy" tone in "Marvell Noir" comes into play. The images used to give the sense of an old Humphrey Bogart ("Sam Spade") film (for instance, The Maltese Falcon) are found with phrases such as "light your Camels" (unfiltered cigarettes), "pour your Jack" (Jack Daniels whiskey), and other phrases such as "Aw, can it, sport! Make no mistake, / You're in it, doll, up to your eyeballs!"

We also hear that Bogart-like narrative with "but take the rap?", "when they spring you," and "Irish bars are more my taste / Than iron ones: stripes ain't my style."

The end in "Marvell Noir" is not based on a woman's hesitance to seize the time with her would-be lover (as in "To His Coy Mistress"), but refers to the limited time these two people have—because the police are coming to arrest her for, it would seem, that "'ll get twenty-five to life." (This is a standard jail term for manslaughter...or it used to be.)

These are both great poems!

Read the study guide:
To His Coy Mistress

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