Asia, Prometheus’s wife, sits alone in a fertile valley in the Indian Caucuses. She is waiting for her sister, Panthea, to arrive and, while she does, she notices that spring is breaking in the valley. She observes that Panthea, who usually visits her at sunrise, is late and that the “wingless moments crawl” like “death-worms.”
Spring is a common symbol of new life, and in the context of Christianity it is often associated with the hope of new life after death. This reflects Shelley’s combination of Christianity and pantheism. Under Jupiter’s reign, Asia is a slave to time, which moves slowly and prevents her happiness.
Panthea arrives and explains that she is late because of a troubled sleep in which she had two strange dreams. In one of the dreams, Prometheus was set free, and she was overcome with love until their spirits mingled together and she was “absorbed.” The other dream she cannot remember. Asia looks into Panthea’s eyes to try to divine the dream and is startled to see a shape moving there which beckons her to “follow.” Panthea cries that this shape is the dream that she had forgotten. The dream “passes into” her mind and invites her to follow. Echoes then begin in the air, calling to Asia that there is a “voice unspoken” in the world which, “by her step alone, can its rest be broken.” Asia and Panthea hurry after the dream.
Panthea’s first dream represents the prophecy that love will come into the world when Prometheus is free. It also reflects the idea that Prometheus’s release will cause a new harmony between beings on earth, and that they will merge together and be “absorbed” because they will recognize that all life is connected. Asia and Panthea are given a task which only they can fulfil. This mirrors the prophecy concerning Prometheus, which suggests that only he can end Jupiter’s tyranny.