In Verlaines's "Claire de Lune" he speaks of:

Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques

They play musical instruments, so one assumes them to be musical artists, but what exactly are masques and bergamasques?

  • I'm just struggling to find a definition of what a bergamasque is.
    – andersj
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


The line is a bit of a pun. A "masque" is a masked ball, and in this case refers to the kind of music played at masques. The name actually has a somewhat convoluted history, originally referring to a masked drama in France, then to a stylized dance in Elizabethan England, and that use re-exported back to France.

Despite the name a "bergamasque" is not a kind of masque. The name comes from Bergamo, a city in Italy. It refers to the kind of music there, based on a folk dance. That dance is thus Bergamo-esque (bergamasco in Italian, and bergamasque in French, giving rise to Bergamask in English).

So "masques and bergamasques" puts together two styles of dance and music, both of which have Renaissance origins, even though the names are not actually related.

  • 2
    And a couple of lines later you have "sous leurs déguisements fantasques"—"under their fantastic disguises"*—so the word *"masque" also carries the meaning of "somebody wearing a mask."
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 18:48

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