Of course, the goldfinch is a well-known symbol in medieval art of the Lord's passion and resurrection.
But I think I'm right in remembering that I've read somewhere that the chaffinch, the pinson, a traditional symbol of happiness in France, has been associated with portrayals of St Jerome and has become, as a result, an emblem of celibacy, the 'bachelor bird.'
Who can forget the line about finches from Hopkins' Pied Beauty?
Glory be to God for dappled things,
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow,
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced, fold, fallow and plough,
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange,
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim.
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;
|illustration - RSPB|