Romance, imagery & heroism

Lesson objective

Understand the perspective of subject and writer, looking at the imagery.


Look at our online photographs and documents relating to nursing and watch the film of ‘A Nurses Poem’ by Jayne Sheppard below. You can also read Jayne’s poem below. This poem was written by a nurse at Salisbury District Hospital, during the Covid-19 lockdown, it was designed to be read aloud by a group of NHS staff on International Nurses Day, May 12th 2020; which was also the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.


Lesson starter

  • What words does Jayne use to describe a nurse?
  • Do you know what the nurse looks like ? Or more what they act like?

Main lesson

  • Read the extract below of poem Santa Filomena by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Who is he writing about? What was the historic context?
  • What words describe the setting?
  • What words describe the person?
  • What does this imagery imply about the character of the person?
  • Who are they being compared to?
  • Is this description different to the one in Jayne’s poem?

Follow-up activities

  • Look at paintings of Florence Nightingale
  • Or propaganda posters for during World War 1 & World War 2 about nurse recruitment
  • And imagery of nursing & the NHS during the Covid-19 lockdown. See Banksy artwork below installed at Southampton Hospital
  • Create a poem or poster for for modern nursing


What stereotypes do we have when thinking about nurses? How do propoganda posters and images create an image of nursing as a career?


Extract from Santa Filomena
A poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
written November 1857

The wounded from the battle-plain
In dreary hospitals of pain,
The cheerless corridors,
The cold and stony floors.

Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering of gloom
And flit from room to room.

And slow, as in a dream of bliss,
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
Her shadow, as it falls
Upon the darkening walls.

As if a door in heaven should be
Opened, and then closed suddenly,
The vision came and went,
The light shone and was spent.

On England’s annals, through the long
Hereafter of her speech and song,
That light its rays shall cast
From portals of the past.

A lady with a lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
A noble type of good,
Heroic womanhood.

Nurse Poem

A Nurse is a Kind and caring soul
Who puts the needs of others before their own

A voice for those who cannot speak
A supportive friend helping you back on your feet

A gentle reminder of what you can achieve
A hand to grasp to hold to help you believe

A smile that can brighten even the darkest of days
A light to guide you and help find your way

Reporting for duty day and night
A compassionate ally assisting whilst you fight

And for those who may struggle and think they can’t cope
A nurse will be present to give them hope.

©Jayne Sheppard 2020

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Crimean War: Florence Nightingale with her lamp at a patient’s bedside

Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


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