“I have put it very clumsily, but Teotihuacan breathes the cultural essence, spirit and soul of Mexico.”

While reading the November 1930 issue of Weird Tales that contained his “Kings of the Night,” Howard took notice of a poem by Alice I’Anson and quickly sent a letter of comment to the magazine, which was published in the January 1931 issue’s installment of  “The Eyrie”:

I was particularly fascinated by the poem by Alice I’Anson in the latest issue… The writer must surely live in Mexico, for I believe that only one familiar with that ancient land could so reflect the slumbering soul of prehistoric Aztec-land as she has done. There is a difference in a poem written on some subject by one afar off and a poem written on the same subject by one familiar with the very heart of that subject. I have put it very clumsily, but Teotihuacan breathes the cultural essence, spirit and soul of Mexico.

Editor Farnsworth Wright did confirm for Howard that indeed Ms. I’Anson resided in Mexico City. Here is her poem:

Teotihuacan

by Alice I’Anson

I sing of pagan rites that long ago
Ruled the great city lying far below
The twin volcanoes’ hoary bridge of snow –
I sing the Song of Teotihuacan!

Deep is the womb of Time in which I see
The drama of dead idolatry! –
I hear old voices chanting now in me
The mystic Song of Teotihuacan!

“The red dawn shimmers on Tezcoco’s lake,
O City of the Priests, awake, awake!
It is another Feast Day of the Snake,
The Serpent God of Teotihuacan!

“Behold the flaming signal in the skies!
The dawn is red!—today a victim dies!
O hear, O hear his agonizing cries,
Great Serpent God of Teotihuacan!

“Upon the stone his writhing form is laid—
His blood spurts redly from the ‘itxli’ blade—
With his dripping heart an offering is made,
To the mighty God of Teotihuacan!”

Shadows of centuries! still they grow apace
While Mystery hovers o’er the solemn place
Whose ruins whisper in this year of grace:
“Where is the God of Teotihuacan?”

O Souls that cross again the yawning deep
While round these monuments the lizards creep,
I feel your ghostly contact as you keep
Your vigils in old Teotihuacan!

O Spirit Guardians of this grim terrain,
Has Karma bound us with the selfsame chain?
Did I, too, worship at that gory fane
Long years agone . . . in Teotihuacan?

No wonder Howard admired the poem — with its ancient civilization theme, grisly human sacrifice, bloodthirsty serpent god and reincarnation slant —  it was right up his alley. There is not a lot of information floating around about the lady poet who got the attention of Ol’ Two-Gun with her poem, but a small amount of information is available.

Alice I’Anson, born in San Francisco on January 15, 1872, was the oldest of three children. Her parents were Miles and Elizabeth I’Anson and her younger siblings were Beatrice I’Anson (born 1875) and Miles I’Anson (born 1876).

Around 1875, her father Miles I’Anson was photographed at a studio in Valparaiso, Chile all decked out as a gold prospector – he was on his way to join the California Gold Rush where he worked as a mining engineer in until 1891. Miles was also a poet, which probably inspired Alice to write her own poems. Miles had a book of gold-mining themed poems published in 1891 titled A Vision of Misery Hill in New York and London. One of the poems pays homage to his daughter, Alice:

Where Alice Is

by Miles I’Anson

Come with me, O charming maid,
To the forest’s vernal shade
Where no strife or malice is,
And no cares of life invade; —
Peace shall reign where Alice is!

Come and seek the Dryad’s home
In the wildwood trellises;
Or by the ocean’s roar and foam
Blithely let us live and roam; —
Joy shall reign where Alice is!

Come where lilies, blossoming,
Lifting their fragrant chalices
To each living, loving thing
Pulsing with the life of Spring;
Love shall reign where Alice is!

So like Elfin king and queen,
Monarchs of a blest demesne,
Throned in leafy palaces
Love and Joy and Peace, I ween,
Shall be mine and Alice’s!

Little is known about Ms. I’Anson’s writing career, other than she was a poet and had poems published in several anthologies.  She did have five poems published in the Unique Magazine from 1930 through 1932, several letters published in “The Eyrie” and at least one of her poems appeared in Oriental Stories. The last of her poems to appear in Weird Tales was in the May 1932 issue, which featured Howard’s “Horror from the Mound.” That final poem also had an ancient Aztec theme and is presented below.

Shadows of Chapultepec

by Alice I’Anson

O Wood of Dreams! what misted centuries
Have wrapped their spell around your stately trees!
Veiled by the hanging moss, my spirit sees
Majestic halls, with jade and turquoise bright
And sculptured walls that catch the moon’s pale light,
Fantasmagoria of the Haunted Night!
I breathe the smoke of sacrificial fires
Where stark gray pyramids like funeral pyres
Loom darkly underneath these lofty spires …
And here and there symbolic serpents twine;
Their eyes of black and glistening “ixtli” shine
From moss-grown trunks and loops of twisted vine!
The drip of fountain marks the passing hours,
And creeping myrtle, loneliest of flowers,
Drapes with its amaranth bloom the fadeless bowers!
There is strange music in the silvery haze
That floats like incense in cathedral ways
Through these weird “sambras,” this enchanted maze;
For day and night I hear the measured tread
Of mighty warriors numbered with the Dead
Long folded in some dark and leaf-strewn bed!
The lordly Tzins! the chieftains of their race!
In all their spectral grandeur, I can trace
Pride that has dwindled to pathetic grace!
They mourn the glory and the pageantry
Of the dead Past they never more shall see
Save in the ghostly Wood of Memory!

According to a U.S. Consulate document, Ms. I’Anson died of heart failure on June 5, 1931 in Mexico City; she was 59 years old. I’ve read a few other places where she died in 1932, but I’d say given this document, the correct year is 1931. I seriously doubt, even with the huge population of Mexico City, that there were two Alice I’Ansons who resided in that city and submitted poems to Weird Tales.

At the time of her death, she had been living in Mexico for a little over four years and shared a house with her sister. Ms. Anson was buried in the American Cemetery and survived by her sister Beatrice and brother Miles.