Toelken's lively exploration of folksongs and their meanings looks closely at a number of folksong and ballad texts. He discusses riddle songs and other ambiguous folksongs, as well as the various "ballad commonplaces", treating them not as a fund of mindless cliches but as a reservoir of suggestive reference. The author ranges through metaphors such as weaving, plowing, plucking flowers, and walking in the dew, showing in each case how it contributes to meaning in vernacular song. Included are comparisons to German folksongs, medieval poetry, Italian folk lyrics, and a wide range of Euro-American vernacular expression. If morning dew and roses are metaphorical signifiers, he prompts us to ask, what might they say to the folk communities that sustain and share them? Toelken draws on both his published work and his extensive unpublished research on English-language and German-Austrian folksong. The German references he offers show that the nuances are not coincidental or unique to English ballad development but reflect a widespread northern European pattern of metaphoric expression.