I have tried in the past to express what Julian Barnes expresses so well in this quote from his memoir Nothing to be frightened of. (I’m reading it at the moment, a healthy way to deal with my fear of death – reading about the fear of death.)
Those proud lines of Gautier’s I was once so attached to – everything passes except art in its robustness; kings die, but sovereign poetry lasts longer than bronze – now read as adolescent consolation. Tastes change; truth become cliches; whole art forms disappear. Even the greatest art’s triumph over death is risibly temporary. A novelist might hope for another generation of readers – two or three if lucky – which may feel like a scorning of death; but it’s really just scratching on the wall of the condemned cell. We do it to say: I was here too.