A metrical romance in six books, by Edmund Spenser (incomplete). It details the adventures of various knights, who impersonate different virtues, and belong to the court of Gloriana, Queen of faërie land.
The first book contains the legend of the Red Cross Knight (the spirit of Christianity), and is by far the best. The chief subject is the victory of Holiness over Error. It contains twelve cantos.
The second book is the legend of Sir Guyon (the golden mean), in twelve cantos. The third book is the legend of Britomartis (love without lust), in twelve cantos. Britomartis is Diana, or Queen Elizabeth the Britoness.
The fourth book is the legend of Cambel and Triamond (fidelity ), in twelve cantos. The fifth book is the legend of Artegal (justice ), in twelve cantos.
The sixth book is the legend of Sir Calidore (courtesy), in twelve cantos. There are parts of a seventh book—viz. cantos 6 and 7, and two stanzas of canto three. The subject is Mutability.
The plan of the Faërie Queene is borrowed from the Orlando Furioso, but the creative power of Spenser is more original, and his imagery more striking, than Ariosto's. Thomson says of him -
[He] like a copious river, poured his song O'er all the mazes of enchanted ground.
The Seasons (Summer), 1574-5.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894