In its present state, The Faerie Queene contains no direct presentation of Cleopolis.The poem's action takes place in the undefined, neutral terrain familiar to chivalric legend: a series of open spaces serving as battlefields, bounded by wilderness and linked by devious and perilous paths. The heroes are far from home, in that other country of challenge and response. If the various palaces, cottages, and caves scattered over this terrain are sometimes presented as miniature social units, they refer specifically and primarily to the concerns of the poem's action at the time of their appearance. At most these microcosmic societies may demonstrate the ideal working of an individual virtue; but they do not pretend to be total images of the societal impulse, as does the perpetually offstage court of Gloriana.
Similarly, the "natural" settings found in the poem—the gardens, groves, and other images of retreat—offer a picture of the natural order which is always relative to the persons visiting them: they cannot be abstracted from their narrative contexts. [This essay] will examine these settings in an effort to define the images of nature and the natural order which they imply, but it will be ultimately concerned with the relevance of these images to the poem's larger purpose: a presentation of human responsibility in a world where the Golden Age is at most a distant memory of a society that can never be literally restored, one in which mankind enjoyed an easy communion with the rhythm of a friendly nature. For fallen and redeemed man, Love has taken on a new meaning beyond that attributed to it in the scheme of nature. In its more complex____________________