Here are two similar versions of a Rilke „Dinggedicht" translation, resulting from a joint effort by Guntram Deichsel and Jack Lohrmann (November 2004). Guntram's ambition is to stay as close as possible to Rilke, whereas Jack strives for smoothness of language. They found no agreement on a final version and leave the decision to the reader.
The poem in original German follows the translations.
Rainer Maria Rilke, July 1908
Perhaps it deems to you a rose as choice
Quell bulbul, loudly praising her in places
And thus concealing well the foliage cluster
Translation by Jack Lohrmann and Guntram Deichsel
Perhaps it deems, if roses are your choice,
Turn down the bulbul in her fav'rite places
And thus, concealing quilted leaves' cluster,
Translation by Guntram Deichsel and Jack Lohrmann,
Es könnte sein, dass dir der Rose Lob
zu laut erscheint für deine Freundin: Nimm
das schön gestickte Kraut und überstimm
mit dringend flüsterndem Heliotrop
den Bülbül, der an ihren Lieblingsplätzen
sie schreiend preist und sie nicht kennt.
Denn sieh: wie süße Worte nachts in Sätzen
beisammenstehn ganz dicht, durch nichts getrennt,
aus der Vokale wachem Violett
hindüftend durch das stille Himmelbett -:
so schließen sich vor dem gesteppten Laube
deutliche Sterne zu der seidnen Traube
und mischen, dass sie fast davon verschwimmt,
die Stille mit Vanille und mit Zimmt.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Heliotrope: Plant cultivated for its violet, star-shaped flowers which have a smell of vanilla.
Bulbul: An oriental singing bird, "Persian Nightingale"
Bernhard Frank writes about the problems of Rilke translations: My own theory of translation derives from Verlaine's dictum concern-ing all poetry: "De la musique avant toute chose." The music of the poem (or, given that no two languages sound the same, the rhythm, at least) must remain intact. We can recognize a piece by Mozart or a poem by Rilke by its rhythms, and we should be able to do the same with a translation-that being the litmus test. As for the content - its language, in English, must be organic to the poem as a whole; "seamless is a term (from Rilke's "The An-gels") that might be apt. Lastly comes the rhyme, for Rilke's lyric poetry without it ceases to be Rilke's lyric poetry. Here is where the hard labor comes in: turning, molding, softening the lines until they acquiesce, until they become plastic and flowing, their syntax comfortable in their adopted new language. These then, to recap, are the three magic wands of translation: Rhythm, meaning depicted faithfully in organic language, and rhyme capping a fluid syntax. (By courtesy of the copyright holders, New German Review 1997-1998: http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/ngr/ngr13/trrilke.htm
Like the Blue Hydrangea, the Persian Heliotrope is an example of a "Dinggedicht", a poem on a thing. This type of poetry is extensively discussed by Nancy Thuleen at http://www.nthuleen.com/papers/940Brilke.html