What does "Art to nature beauty lends" mean?

It seems to mean "Art lends beauty to nature", but there's two inversion, "Art lends to nature beauty", which then becomes "Art lends beauty to nature". It is quite confusing. How is successive inversion considered ok in English?


It comes from a famous poem

  • 1
    It's a literary / poetic "inversion" of Art lends beauty to Nature, where lends is a literary usage meaning gives. Personally, I think it's pretty low-grade fatuous "poetry" though. Nature is already beautiful - there's no need to gild the lily. Dec 10, 2023 at 4:50
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    "It's from a poem" is the answer. This is not considered ok in normal English. The poet is doing it for poetic effect.
    – James K
    Dec 10, 2023 at 7:46
  • Just a quibble on "lends". We say that something "lends credibility", so the usage isn't exclusively literary. As for the inversion, yes. Dec 10, 2023 at 13:17
  • but it's ok to bundle two successive inversions into one?
    – Sayaman
    Dec 10, 2023 at 13:36
  • One of the tenets of modernist English poetry was the use of natural word order. Such inversion is typical of poetry from the early 18th century and later imitators. Dec 10, 2023 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


Consider the following sentence showing canonical word order for verbs in the "give" class:

He donated money to charity.

Subject (he) - verb (donated) - object (money) -- prepositional phrase indicating recipient (to charity).

We don't say

*He donated to charity money.

Applying the canonical word order to the line from the poem:

Art (subject) lends (verb) beauty (object) to nature (prep. phrase indicating recipient).

We can put the prepositional phrase at the front of the sentence for rhetorical or "information packaging" effect:

To charity he donated money; to the library he donated books.

And we can put the object at the front, again for some rhetorical effect:

His money he donated to charity; his body he donated to science. But nobody wanted his books.


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