The Spirit of Love represents the most powerful force in the universe, to which all beings are “subject.” The personification of Love as the highest being in the universe supports Shelley’s message in Prometheus Unbound that love and compassion are more powerful than violence and aggression. Shelley depicts the Spirit of Love as an attractive youth who rides a chariot around the circuit run by the Hours, the spirits of time whom Jupiter has unleashed on the world and who have made slaves of humankind. The Spirit of Love is depicted as moving around the edge of this circle run by the Hours, suggesting that Love is not bound or constrained by time in the way that humanity is under Jupiter’s reign.
The Spirit of Love’s chariot is an “ivory shell inlaid with crimson fire.” The “ivory shell” connects the Spirit of Love to the shell blown by Spirits of the Hour, which spreads love all around the world when it is sounded. This shell also originally belonged to Asia, Prometheus’s wife: when Asia is described as riding on the sea in a shell, this evokes images of the birth of Venus, the classical goddess of love, and thus connects Asia with love. Asia and Prometheus’s coupling, then, represents the union of love and knowledge. This is further reflected by the fact that Love’s chariot is notably “inlaid with crimson fire” because Love and knowledge are inseparable in Prometheus Unbound. Humanity must have access to both in order to act in a way that allows hope to flourish in the world.
The Spirit of Love Quotes in Prometheus Unbound
Though Ruin now Love’s shadow be,
Following him destroyingly
On Death's white and winged steed,
Which the fleetest cannot flee—
Trampling down both flower and weed,
Man and beast and foul and fair,
Like a tempest through the air;
Thou shalt quell this Horseman grim,
Woundless though in heart or limb.—
First famine and then toil and then disease,
Strife, wounds, and ghastly death unseen before,
Fell; and the unseasonable seasons drove,
With alternating shafts of frost and fire,
Their shelterless, pale tribes to mountain caves;
And in their desert hearts fierce wants he sent
And mad disquietudes, and shadows idle
Of unreal good, which levied mutual war,
So ruining the lair w herein they raged.
Prometheus saw, and waked the legioned hopes
Which sleep within folded Elysian flowers,
Nepenthe, Moly, Amaranth, fadeless bloom
That they might hide with thin and rainbow wings
The shape of Death; and Love he sent to bind
The disunited tendrils of that vine
Which bears the wine of life, the hum an heart;
And he tamed fire, which like some beast of prey
Most terrible, but lovely, played beneath
The frown of man […]
Fate, Time, Occasion, Chance and Change?—To these
All things are subject but eternal Love.
So much I asked before, and my heart gave
The response thou hast given; and of such truths
Each to itself must be the oracle.—
One more demand . . . and do thou answer me
As my own soul would answer, did it know
That which I ask.—Prometheus shall arise
Henceforth the Sun of this rejoicing world:
When shall the destined hour arrive?
Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom and Endurance,—
These are the seals of that most firm assurance
Which bars the pit over Destruction’s strength;
And if, with infirm hand, Eternity,
Mother of many acts and hours, should free
The serpent that would clasp her with his length,—
These are the spells by which to reassume
An empire o’er the disentangled Doom.
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than Death or Night
To defy Power which seems Omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope, till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change nor falter nor repent:
This, like thy glory, Titan! is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire and Victory.