WORLD WAR I
THE CALL TO ARMS did not include Debussy. He was nearing his fifty-second birthday. "At my age, my military fitness makes me just about good enough to guard a fence. . . . " But neither his profession nor his secluded way of living shielded him from the general tension and anguish.
". . . I have no sang-froid and even less of military spirit -- never having had occasion to handle a gun. Add to this my recollections of 1870 [the Franco-Prussian War] and the anxiety of my wife, whose son and son-in-law are in the army, and you will understand my lack of enthusiasm. All this creates for me a life both intensive and disturbing, where I am nothing but a poor little atom crushed by this terrible cataclysm," Debussy said and it seemed to him that what he was doing or could do was "so wretchedly small."
Theaters were closing, orchestras were disbanded, Diaghilev and the members of his Ballet departed. Debussy's world was collapsing before his eyes and every day brought news of another old friend or acquaintance joining the army. He frankly admitted that he envied Satie, who, with the rank of corporal, "was seriously preparing himself to defend Paris," and after Paul Dukas told him that he was ready "to offer his face to be bashed in like anyone else," Debussy also declared, "If, to assure victory they are absolutely in need of another face to be bashed in, I'll offer mine without hesitation."
The initial success of the German armies, exaggerated by wild