Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen available here.
I found the extract of The Faerie Queen to be readable and more importantly was able to understand the language and infer some meaning although to me it read like a fairy-tale. It would require great study of the texts to identify the allegorical aspect and the whole political undertone of the religious conflict of the late Elizabethan era and given that this enormous and incomplete life long work is actually a number of books a tiny overview is all that I'm aiming for. It is written in the classical epic style and form influenced by the classics and the continental poets. Spencer's aim was to tell the story of the twelve christian virtues, using the characters of knights of the Faerie Queen to illustrate each one. The work is described in purely poetic terms as 'neither original, nor always remarkable but Spenser's blending of such diverse sources with a high-minded allegory that makes the poem unique and remarkable'. (http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/fqueen/summary.html)
Although it is clearly useful to have a basic knowledge of the history of British poetry and I am certainly learning a lot, I have discovered that there is no way I would ever wish to study the subject in detail. I find these epic poems to be monotonous in the extreme and wonder if they aren't actually pretentious. They do often convey a degree of self absorption/ self importance on the part of the poet. Spenser and his peers actually stated that they intended to influence and change English poetry before ever being published and much depended on befriending appropriate sponsors of influence and means. Granted they provide details of eras long gone and learning about the context in which they were written aids my understanding but it's fair to say that had poetry not continued to evolve I doubt that I would be remotely interested in it today. I know that as I continue through the history I will start to find works that I can relate to, and am curious as to when that will be and what will cause the change.