But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
A magic lantern was an early image projector developed in the 17th century (or 15th, if you credit Giovanni Fontana, a Venetian engineer who thought he was a magus and created a lantern that projected an image of a demon).
Here Prufrock is wondering if it’s worth it to spill his guts, to put everything he feels “out there” like the projections of the magic lantern. He fears that if he gives voice to his emotions and desires, his innermost self will effectively be on public display. And what’s the point if he’s sure to be rejected?
To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot and leave a comment on the lyrics box