Many of the most celebrated 'love stories' in literature are actually tragedies.
Romeo and Juliet. Wuthering Heights. Lancelot and Guinevere. Abelard and Heloise. Antony and Cleopatra. Even the movie Titanic. Someone dies at the end, or goes mad, or has happiness snatched away in some other mean and untimely manner.
How is all this suffering fair? And how is it romantic?
Well, life's like that. We can't always have what we want -- and there's something emotionally satisfying, if not uplifting, about the 'perfect love' cut short. So long, of course, as it doesn't happen to us.
"'Tis better to have loved and lost / than never to have loved at all" wrote Tennyson.
Or, in the words of the immortal rock band Queen: "Just one year of love / Is better than a lifetime alone." Queen have an eye for tragedy; they also sang Who Wants To Live Forever? from the movie Highlander -- a song about an immortal man with a mortal lover. Yeah. That's never going to end well, is it?
And if even a horrible movie like Highlander can make us cry, in that scene where Connor's mortal wife dies in his arms, an old woman, while he lives on, forever young... well, it just goes to show that there's nothing more desperately romantic than love that dies untimely.
Why is that? Is it because we want to believe that true love lives on after death? Do we like the idea of love so obsessive it can defeat even that most final of endings? Do we all secretly wish for the kind of love that's so wonderful, we might as well die right now, because this is as good as it gets -- the idea of love so perfect that without it, we'd rather die?
Or do we just adore a tear-jerker? What do you think?