Here we have poetry translation from the "try as little as possible" school, and there is no doubt that this can produce enjoyable doggerel. There is another school though. A school that dares to Try Harder.
Douglas R. Hofstadter's Le Ton Beau de Marot describes and provides samples for four different English translations of the Russian verse novel, Eugene Onegin. And a friend of DRH and native speaker of Russian had this to
say about one of them:
Of course Falen's is the best, hands down!
when I looked at the translation samples, it
caught my eye at once, and -- oh, miracle! --
The Russian verse popped up in my head! It's
just perfect. The very same playful spirit.
And here's a small sample:
Was this the Tanya he once scolded
In that forsaken, distant place
Where first our novel's plot unfolded?
The one to whom, when face to face
In such a burst of moral fire,
He'd lectured gravely on desire?
The girl whose letter he still kept --
In which a maiden heart had wept;
Where all was shown . . . all unprotected?
Was this that girl . . . or did he dream?
That little girl whose warm esteem
And humble lot he'd once rejected? . . .
And could she now have been so bold,
So unconcerned with him . . . so cold?
How's that for a translation of poetry?
Most people can't write it that well the first time around.
Of course in order to be able to translate so well, to "try harder", it's pretty much mandatory that you be fluent in both languages involved... (I guess that puts me squarely in the Babelfish school too. Though, a parody is in some ways like a translation, and I like to think I can "try harder" in that realm on occassion.)