Earliest appearances of The Amphioxus Song

The 2001-2002 Amphioxus research season revealed new information, including what are probably the earliest forms of the song. Edith Pope asked her son-in-law and daughter Tom and Suki Boydston to look in some old family papers. There they found a hand-written and type-written songbook with Philip Pope's name on it, dated 1921, Cold Spring Harbor Lab. Inserted into it was a piece of paper with typed lyrics of the song. They have kindly sent me a copy, which you can see by clicking here.

A chance encounter in Woods Hole with Bob Josephson of the University of California, Irvine, led him to explore the MBL library archives. Based on encouraging reports from him, I mounted an expedition in August, 2002. Jean Monahan, the MBL archivist, showed me early songbooks and songsheets including:

These early versions of the song show noticeable differences in exact wording ("skin and hair" versus "lungs and hair", for example), so that we can assume that some of the population-level variation in the words has been extant since the beginning.

These are probably the earliest forms of the song we will find. The 1921 MBL songbook has the chorus, which circulated anonymously at MBL and CSHL and must have been written some time after 1912, when "Tipperary" was written. The 1922 songbook shows Pope's verses reaching MBL the year after he composed them.

This page prepared by Joe Felsenstein. Thanks particularly to the late Edith Pope Patten, to Tom and Suki Boydston, Bob Josephson, and Jean Monahan.