The Enchanted Boat by Walter Crane, 1868. Pencil, watercolour, gouache and gum arabic on paper, 9 ⅞ x 21 inches (25.1 x 53.3 cm). Private collection. Click on image to enlarge it.

When this work was exhibited at the Dudley Gallery in 1868, no. 247, it was accompanied in its catalogue entry by lines from P. B. Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound.”

My soul is an enchanted boat,
      Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;
     And thine doth like an angel sit
     Beside the helm conducting it,
Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.
     It seems to float ever for ever
     Upon that many-winding river,
     Between mountains, woods, abysses,
     A paradise of wildernesses!

This exemplifies the Poetry Without Grammar School based on its subject and handling. The landscape background was painted before Crane had come into contact with Costa but surprisingly exactly prefigures the work he would soon do under Costa’s guidance. The horizontal format with its high skyline and row of distant purple hills looks very much like the landscape of the Roman Campagna. The merits of this work was not appreciated, however, by contemporary critics. The Art Journal stated: “Walter Crane swoons away into delicious sentimentality of color and morbid mannerism, as he paints up to the strain – ‘My soul is an enchanted boat’” (45).

Detail and Related Material


“The Fourth General Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings. Dudley Gallery.” The Art Journal New Series VII (1868): 45-46.

Last modified 19 December 2022