The score poses a couple of interesting philosophical questions as well. I am largely of the school of thought that instrumental music does not express garden variety emotions as such, but rather moods and atmosphere. But Debussy certainly challenges that with this piece. An integral part of the score are the textual expressive indications, one of which we run into at the very beginning. The tempo indication is not too bad: "triste et lent" which means "sad and slow" but what are we to make of the instruction for the accompaniment: "Ce rhythme doit avoir la valeur sonore d'un fond de paysage triste et glace"? "This rhythm needs to have the sonic value of a deep countryside sad and frozen"? Uh, ok, how does that effect how you are going to play this rather subtle rhythm? Whatever I am going to do with that rhythm likely can't be put into words, so how do the words Debussy wrote influence how we play? Good philosophical question which I do not have the slightest intention of answering in this post. The "sad" part can be expressed with a dragging or lethargic treatment, but the frozen? There is also a challenging instruction for the violin on page two where it says a melody should be played "Comme un tendre et triste regret." Again, the sad should be possible, but the tender regret? What I suspect performers do is to read the instruction and try the melody in different ways until it feels a bit like the text suggests.
In any case, this is an absolutely lovely piece and it works very well indeed on violin and guitar. Try it out and let me know what you think! Here is a performance on piano.