PERSPECTIVEnWAITING FOR THE END by Thomas FlemingnIn the Gilbert and Sullivan series running eurrently onnPBS, many American television viewers were treated fornthe first time to a performance oi Patience, a masterful satirenon the pretensions of aesthetes—the crowd George Indescribed as “boets and bainters.” When the heroinendecides to humble herself by trying to love the high priest ofnculture, Mr. Bunthorne, the poet exclaims:nNature, for restraint too mighty farnhas burst the bonds of art—and here we are.nHere we are, indeed! The arts, we are told over and over,nare dying, while nature—in the forms of science andnliberated manners—is everywhere triumphant. The empirenof the arts, once so vast and powerful, is now reduced to thennarrow confines of museums and classrooms. The old Latinnsaw about ars longa, vita brevis (art is long, life is short) isn41 CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnnnnow reversed, as gerontologists work to prolong life andnimportant books are remaindered or even pulped almostnbefore they reach the bookstores. Without the assistance ofnprofessional philanthropists, the arts would cease to exist.nIt may be so. On the other hand, the American peoplenare more devoted to art and various forms of aestheticnrecreation than any nation in history. While other culturesnhave had to devote a large part of their energies to making anliving, we are the consumers par excellence of drama,npictures, and contests of wit. The drama may be PolicenAcademy or Dynasty; the pictures, photographs of MissnAmerica in Penthouse or cheerful prints of starving LatinnAmerican children; while the contests of wit usually takenplace on jeopardy and Johnny Carson. Much of it may benbad art—no, it is bad art, inexcusably bad—but art it is,nnonetheless.nThen why is there all this outcry over the decline of art innAmerica? If you can believe the various state and Federalnagencies created to nurture the arts and humanities, it takesna massive investment of resources to enable the arts tonmaintain a beachhead on the hostile territory of the UnitednStates. Where do these people live? Americans must spendna large part of every day on essentially intellectual andnaesthetic entertainment; watching TV or looking at magazinesn(although not reading them: reading Time for thennews would be like buying Playboy for the interview). Wenare second only to the Greeks in our love of music—evennthe Greeks didn’t have music in the elevator. As AaronnGopland used to complain, it is impossible to enter a banknwithout being subjected to Brahms. Today, he might addnthat you cannot walk down a quiet street without beingnassaulted by Twisted Sister or Tina Turner, the audionequivalent of mugging.nObviously, what upsets the arts establishment is the factnthat Gulture Club is not performing Italian madrigals,nand Mr. T is not reciting Shakespeare as he throws a pair ofnunion racketeers through a plate-glass window. They alsoncomplain about the violence in movies and televisionnshows, which means they have never seen Titus Andronicusnor read the Iliad. They assure us that real poetry, as opposednto commercial jingles or Rod McKuen, has lost its audience.nA survey done on college campuses a few years backnrevealed that hardly anybody could quote a line of contemporarynverse—not even those who professed to admire it.nThey must not have asked the right people. I am alwaysnrunning into people who can quote yards of poetry from thenmodern classics of Bob Dylan, Lennon and McCartney,nand Dan Fogelberg—n