The action takes place on the Ryazan land in the period from the spring of 1917 to 1923. The narrative is conducted on behalf of the author-poet Sergei Yesenin; The image of “epic” events is transmitted through the attitude of the lyric hero towards them.
In the first chapter we are talking about the poet’s trip to his native places after the hardships of the world war, to which he was a party. The driver tells about the life of his fellow villagers – wealthy Radovsky peasants. The Radovites are in constant war with the poor village of Kriushi. Neighbors steal the forest, arrange dangerous scandals, in one of which it comes to killing the sergeant-major. After the trial and at the Radovtsi, “dislocations began, they slid down with the reins of happiness.”
The hero reflects on the plight of destiny, remembering how “for someone else’s interest” he shot and “crawled on his brother.” The poet refused to participate in the massacre – he straightened out the “lime tree” and “became the first deserter in the country”. The guest is cordially welcomed in the miller’s house, where he was not four years old. After the samovar, the hero goes to the hayloft through a lilac-covered garden – and in memory there are “far lovely were” – a girl in a white cloak, said affectionately: “No!”
The second chapter tells about the events of the next day. The hero awakened by the miller rejoices in the beauty of the morning, the white haze of the apple orchard. And again, as if in opposition to this, the thought of the crippled innocently mutilated by the war. From the old miller he again hears about the skirmishes of the Radovites with the Criushans, that now that the tsar has been driven away, “freedom is being bitten” everywhere: for some reason, the jails have been opened and many “thieves’ souls” have returned to the village, among them – Ogloblin. Miller, who returned from the landowner Snegina, an old familiar hero, reports how interested his message was about the guest who came to him. But the crafty hints of the miller do not bother while the hero’s soul. He goes to Kriusha to see the familiar peasants.
A peasant’s gathering gathered at the hut of Pron Ogloblin. The peasants are delighted with the capital’s guest and they need to clarify to them all burning
questions – about the land, about the war, about “who is Lenin?”. The poet replies: “He is you.”
In the third chapter, the events that followed a few days later. The miller brings Anna Snegin to the hero who caught cold on the hunt. A half-joking conversation about young meetings at the gate, her marriage irritates the hero, he wants to find another, sincere tone, but he has to obediently play the role of a fashionable poet. Anna reproaches him for his dissolute life, drunken debauches. But the hearts of the interlocutors speak of another – they are full of the influx of “sixteen years”: “We parted with her at dawn / With a riddle of movements and eyes…”
The summer continues. At the request of Pron Ogloblin, the hero goes with the peasants to the Snegin to demand land. From the landowner’s room sobs are heard – it was news of the death of Anna’s husband, a military officer, at the front. Anna does not want to see the poet: “You are a miserable and low coward, he died… And here you are…” Stung, the hero goes with Pron to the tavern.
The main event of the fourth chapter is the news that brings in the hut of the miller Pron. Now, according to him, “we are all r-times – and kvass! In Russia now the Soviets and Lenin – the senior commissioner.” Next to Pronon on the Council is his brother Labutya, a drunkard and chatterbox, who lives “no hands”. It is he who goes first to describe the sneginsky house – “there is always speed in capturing”. The miller brings the masters of the estate to him. There is a last explanation of the hero with Anna. The pain of loss, the irrecoverability of past relationships, still separate them. And again there is only the poetry of memories of youth. Toward evening the Snegins leave, and the poet rushes to St. Petersburg “dispel depression and sleep.”
In the fifth chapter – a sketch outline of the events that took place in the country in six post-revolutionary years. “Chumazy rabble”, having reached the master’s good, strumming on the pianos and listening to the gramophone – but “the fate of the grain grower”, “Fefela! The breadwinner, Kasatik!” for a couple of foul “katek” gives himself a whip. “
From the miller’s letter the hero of the poem learns that Pron Ogloblin was shot by Denikin’s Cossacks; Labutya, after sitting in a straw, demands a red order for bravery.
The hero again visits his native places. His old friends greet him with the same joy. For him, a gift-letter with a London seal was prepared-the news from Anna. And although the addressee remains outwardly cold, even a little cynical, yet a trace remains in his soul. The final lines again return to the luminous image of youthful love.