Will the circle be unbroken By and by, by and by?
This is an excerpt from the song "Will the circle be unbroken?". I have looked into the Oxford, Merriam-Webster and other dictionaries and it seems that the phrase "by and by" has two meanings: shortly and eventually. I have also examined translations of the song in different languages and, interestingly, the phrase is translated either way. So my question is how should I interpret it (in the song)?
Actually, the problem is more general. This is not the first time, when I encounter the 'double meaning" problem. Of course usually there is a context that helps to unravel the mystery, but sometimes it is not enough. My second question is how native speakers deal with this problem? You choose one meaning intuitively, carefully study the context or leave the phrase ambiguous? May be it is slightly off-top here and I should ask about this separately?