The classics play a vital part in the Essay on Criticism. Pope holds up classical authors as an exemplary standard to which writers of his own time should aspire, both in terms of literary art and also critical analysis - which, when done well, is itself an art. Pope says that the fact that the ancient classics have stood the test of time proves their worth. Pope thinks that the ancient classical writers were true to the spirit of Nature. Nature is a somewhat vague term in this essay, but appears to refer to the ultimate power and order of the universe.
The best writing, Pope remarks, is achieved through striking the right balance between inspiration and control, in having the ability to properly order one's material. In Pope's opinion, the ancient writers were the supreme masters of this difficult craft.