Dawn Patrol A Knight of the Air's in the wraith-wisps, Riding the vapouring spires, He's screaming alone through the cloud void, Scolding with snickering wires; He roars through abysses of blueness; Scorns down the empty, cold miles; His motors start howling in anger ----- "Black Cross" is in his blue aisles! He climbs for the roof of the darer; Scraping the gray floors of space; Relentlessly banking and turning; Whining with glee in the chase! He dives with a sun-glinting belly, Steep on the tail of his foe; His gibbering guns spurt a death stream----- "Black Cross" spins flaming below! Down, down, where the cobbles are snaking, Marked by the poplars that line, He's smoking and flopping and twisting--- Crashes! And crumples his spine! A cheer faintly floats towards the victor: Faces are blurred round the huts; A gambler collects on the dog-fight-- "God! But that lad has his guts!" From And You! Toronto: MacMillan, 1929. Page 7.
“Snickering wires” are of course the guy wires running between the wings of WWI aircraft that provide structural integrity to the wing. At speed they vibrate.
“He climbs…” Beattie offers us air combat tactics 101 in this poem. The Allied aircraft spots the enemy, climbs high and then dives with the sun behind him (else the belly of his aircraft wouldn’t be “sun-glinting”) to prevent the enemy from seeing him.
“A gambler…” Presumably this means some of the men were betting on the German plane: clearly this isn’t considered poor form. How sporting…