Snape’s first words to Harry Potter in the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s beloved series were, “Tell me, what would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?” While the question may have gone over the heads of many viewers, it was actually a very important part of the story.
The question was a reference to a line from the poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by John Keats. In the poem, the knight is dreaming of a beautiful woman who tells him, “I met a lady in the meads,/ Full beautiful—a faery’s child,/ Her hair was long, her foot was light,/ And her eyes were wild.” The knight then asks her, “I made a garland for her head,/ And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;/ She looked at me as she did love,/ And made sweet moan.”
The poem then goes on to say, “I set her on my pacing steed,/ And nothing else saw all day long,/ For sidelong would she bend, and sing/ A faery’s song.” The last line of the poem is, “She found me roots of relish sweet,/ And honey wild, and manna dew,/ And sure in language strange she said—/ ‘I love thee true.'”
The phrase “roots of relish sweet” is a reference to the powdered root of asphodel, which is a type of lily. The phrase “honey wild” is a reference to wormwood, which is a type of herb. Snape’s question to Harry is essentially asking what would happen if he combined these two ingredients.
The answer to Snape’s question is that he would get a powerful love potion. This is significant because it is a reference to the love potion that Snape had been brewing for Lily Potter, Harry’s mother. Snape had been in love with Lily for many years, and this love potion was his way of expressing his feelings for her.
Snape’s first words to Harry were not only a reference to a poem, but also a way of revealing his true feelings for Lily. It was a fitting way for Snape to introduce himself to Harry, and it set the tone for the rest of the series.