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Secondary indicative without ἄν: unattainable wish
εἴθε γὰρ αἱ κρῆναι καὶ ἄρτους ἔφερον
‘If only wells also brought forth bread!’ (D. L. 6.5)
The imperfect or aorist indicative, always preceded by εἴθε or εἰ γάρ, signals an unattainable wish.
This construction is best translated with if only (e.g. εἴθε ὤλλυτο ‘If only he were to die.’ or ‘If only he had died.’)
Wishes which refer to the present are always in the imperfect. When the wish refers to the past, an aorist is usually, though not always, used.
This way of expressing the unattainable wish is relatively rare in Greek and occurs mainly in the dramatists.
χειρουργῶν τ᾽ ἐν τῷ μέσῳ συνεχές, εἴθε ἦν, ἔλεγε, καὶ τὴν κοιλίαν παρατριψάμενον τοῦ λιμοῦ παύσασθαι
As he was pleasuring himself in public, Diogenes (the Cynic) said: if only one could dispel hunger by rubbing one's stomach.
φεῦ· εἴθ’ ἦν Ὀρέστης πλησίον κλύων τάδε
Alas, if only Orestes were around to hear this!