! I've amended my answer in light of restrictive bias.
! Although Andrew's well structured answer does lend weight to his argument, I fear that limiting your vision to grammatical analysis only takes many things away from the interpretation of the poem.
This does not mean to say that Andrew's response is incorrect.
! Ballads are and should be lyrically pleasing and if there are subtle innuendoes and multiple layers of interpretation to be discovered - the value of the content is much increased.
! As the use of English does allow for ambivalent interpretations especially in poetry, lyrical or other, I would urge you to not to base your judgement on your own personal belief system.
! Andrew's answer is craftily written and as such it exemplifies the lengths to which language can be twisted to suit ulterior motives.
!My own interpretation stems from an entirely different viewpoint of the cosmogenesis and as such it presents a richer and less dogmatic landscape.
!Gods may or may not have existed - unless people in Heaven are Gods as Andrew claims - but they (the Gods) are where they are, either because they've earned the right to be there or as per my initial response below)
It has very deep connotations.
A vigil refers to a guard-duty/watchtower scenario.
So 'their vigils keep' definitely refers to many, in this case it is of the 'gods'.
The songwriter uses the verb 'redeem' to highlight the meaning of 'redemption'. It is a very poetic line and quite beautiful.
Although the double-usage also alludes to the 'cashing out' on good actions and in the Christian sense, may indeed mean that the 'Gods' are those who made it to Heaven.
So in a very loose translation within the context of the whole song and the couplet in which the lyrics are found, the line probably means that
The "beauteous fields" were brought into existence when the gods were granted redemption after keeping watch for the eons before Christ came to Earth.
'where gods redeemed their vigils keep' this refers to the location where the gods were keeping watch. After their redemption, that place was transformed into the beauteous fields that the wayfaring stranger arrives at after their long and difficult journey.
!This is the Judeo-Christian-Islamic version of afterlife known as Heaven, although other cultures have their own versions, this specific line seems to indicate the Elysian Fields of Greek Mythology and bucolic pastoral renditions of English writers such as John Donne (sermons and lectures) and the vivid imagination of John Milton(Paradise Lost).
Pre-Christian Pagan concepts were colonized by the early Christian Church and assimilated to create a cohesive world view for Jesus.
I cannot claim knowledge of the workings of the afterlife, but dogmatically speaking, Christian doctrine states that redeemed souls go to Heaven and the title of God is reserved for the Holy Trinity and ONLY the Holy Trinity.
Ascribing the title of God to any other entity would be blasphemous according to the first 2 commandments (see the stoning scene in Life of Brian by Monty Python for a comical interpretation of this)
Other traditions offer karma and reincarnation and bliss and nirvana as part of their redemption package (Christianity gives you 3 packs to choose from: Heaven, Hell and Limbo) but they all share a common theme.
Although the accepted answer is grammatically sound based on the academic interpretations provided by Andrew, I can not in good conscience agree with the direction he has taken in his analysis. Should he have chosen another train of thought I am certain he could just as easily have provided another valid 'accepted answer'. And that is my challenge to Andrew.
Andrew I've down voted your answer for 3 reasons:
- Perjury - claiming my response was invalid
- Pride - assumption of Christian and Pagan Dogma
- Prejudice - viewpoint is not entirely academic
However, your keen analytical mind does have a lot to offer and for the sake of this topic I urge you to explore an alternative hypothesis - perhaps another response by you may very well be perceived as the 'accepted answer'.